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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The New York Times' effect on McCain

“We can try to understand the New York Times’ effect on man,” the Bee Gees sang around three decades ago in their smash hit Stayin’ Alive. Since the New York Times’ latest tabloid journalistic, thinly-sourced, slime job/hit piece, “Stayin’ Alive,” politically speaking, is what John McCain is trying to do. Although, since the story broke, the “effect” for McCain has not be so bad after all, and could even turn out to be quite a blessing-in-disguise for him.

In fact, since the story was published, the NY Times has come under more scrutiny than McCain has. How ironic, but not surprising, is the fact that the article appeared at all in the NY Times is more of a story than the story itself. It is not surprising because the story is full of innuendo and circumstantial evidence. It practically begs readers to draw their own negative conclusions regarding the almost certain Republican presidential nominee, John McCain. This after the NY Times endorsed McCain in late January.

The story implies an affair, around a decade ago, with a female lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. I use “implies” rather loosely, because there are no named, on-the-record sources and all that the unnamed sources reveal is that certain people around McCain, suspecting something romantic was going on, tried to limit Iseman’s access to the Senator.

All of this is, “according to two former McCain associates,” whom the article later admits, “had become disillusioned with the senator.” Were they disillusioned to the point that they perhaps wanted to hurt the Senator politically? Did their disillusionment come about as a result of being “former” associates (Were they fired?)?

Both Iseman and McCain have directly denied any affair.

The story first surfaced around two months ago, on December 20 in The Drudge Report under the headline: MEDIA FIREWORKS: MCCAIN PLEADS WITH NY TIMES TO SPIKE STORY. Drudge reported that, “Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz has been waging a ferocious behind the scenes battle with the NEW YORK TIMES…and has hired DC power lawyer Bob Bennett to mount a bold defense against charges of giving special treatment to a lobbyist!”

Drudge continued with, “The paper's Jim Rutenberg has been leading the investigation and is described as beyond frustrated with McCain's aggressive and angry efforts to stop any and all publication. The drama involves a woman lobbyist who may have helped to write key telecom legislation. The woman in question has retained counsel and strongly denies receiving any special treatment from McCain.” There was no mention of an affair in this report.

Drudge also reported that, “McCain has personally pleaded with NY TIMES editor Bill Keller not to publish the high-impact report.” Keller, on the Times website, the Friday after the story ran, said, “I was surprised by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision [to publish] with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republicans in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot.”

Regarding it as more than a “cheap shot,” The Weekly Standard reported that, “The editors of U.S. News & World Report and Time magazine both said publicly that they would not have published the article. It was not, to borrow a phrase, fit to print. The piece was so underwhelming that many believe the paper must have more evidence that, for whatever reason, it decided not to publish.”

However, just as one person’s manure is another person’s fertilizer, McCain is looking to cash in on the Times ineptitude. A campaign aide stated two days after the story ran, that a campaign fund-raising letter ripping the story and pleading with contributors to fight back “was the most successful to date.”

With this latest sorry effort, all the Times has done, besides galvanize conservatives against them, is reinforce the belief of many that The Gray Lady is going a bit senile.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

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