By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Making sense of the McCain story

Josh Marshall, fresh off his Polk Award, does a good job of putting into perspective today’s New York Times story on John McCain, which suggests, without quite saying out loud, that he may have had an affair with a lobbyist for whom he did favors during his 2000 “straight talk” campaign.

Word is that the McCain campaign tried to spike this story back in December. At Salon, Alex Koppelman recalls that it made a brief appearance on Drudge around that time, then went underground. Is it a legitimate story? Marshall thinks so, but hedges his bets:

I find it very difficult to believe that the Times would have put their chin so far out on this story if they didn’t know a lot more than they felt they could put in the article, at least on the first go. But in a decade of doing this, I’ve learned not to give any benefits of the doubt, even to the most esteemed institutions.

If this has legs, Mitt Romney clearly has plenty to howl about. It would have been the story of the campaign. Then again, Romney has merely “suspended” his campaign, hasn’t he?

Not that this can be compared to the Times’ mind-blowing decision to hold its story on the Bush administration’s no-warrant wiretapping program for more than a year, until after the 2004 presidential election. That still stands as some sort of record.

More: The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz offers some context.

Still more: Adam Reilly notes that Sam Stein hit the Romney angle last night. OK, let me try for something else original: Is this bad news for Hillary Clinton or what? For her to have any chance of staging a comeback in Texas and Ohio, she’s got to (a) get the media to subject Barack Obama to a raking-over of epic proportions and then (b) hope something turns up. Right now, thanks to the Times, (a) looks pretty unlikely.

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  1. mike_b1

    So McCain (may have) had an affair. So what? He admits to having had one with his now-second wife. That beacon of conservative values, Ronald Reagan, had one with Nancy (who was also pregnant with their first child out of wedlock). Bob Dole had several affairs. Rumors of an affair with an aide while he was vice president have long trailed GHWB. GW is a military service-dodging, drug-abusing, drunken failed businessman. Tricky Dick broke myriad federal laws. Ford pardoned a felon.Need I go on?The GOP is spectacular at ignoring its own sins.

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Mike: I don’t think you really mean “so what,” since you rightly point out the hypocrisy here. But the larger issue is whether we might have paid for McCain’s (possible) affair in the form of legislative goodies.

  3. mike_b1

    But the larger issue is whether we might have paid for McCain’s (possible) affair in the form of legislative goodies.Which, of course, would never happen with a GOP leader. Exceptions:Rep. Randy “Duke” CunninghamSen. Ted Stevens Rep. Bob NeyRep. Katherine HarrisRep. Don YoungRep. Virgil H. Goode Jr.Deputy Interior Secretary Steven GrilesDavid Safavian, White House officialRoger Stillwell, Interior DepartmentNeed I go on?The GOP under Bush has been as corrupt as ever. McCain’s just another one in a very large bunch. Where’s the surprise?

  4. Peter Porcupine

    So if you’re squeaky clean Mitt Romney – how do you react?I cannot recall any allegation of corruption – EVER – just disagreement on issues. Gee, what a concept.

  5. Peter Porcupine

    BTW – DK – Romney went beyond suspension of his campaign (that was an announcement just after Super Tuesday), and went whole hog, endorsing McCain and releasing his delegates. Now, whether those released delegates flock to McCain is a different issue. Romney was making persoanl calls, telling people he really DID mean it – now, even with his urging, who knows?It was BECAUSE of Mitt’s additional delegates that McCain announced the other night that he had the numbers to secure the nomination. And while the GOP has more stringent rules than the Dems, who appear to have no rules about pledged delegates AT ALL in light of Bill Clinton’s poaching of them, GOP delegates still are not robots – and technically, they remain pledged to Romney and are only ABLE to vote for McCain with Mitt’s blessing. They don’t have to.If McCain doesn’t get 1,100 on his own – well – we COULD have an interesting Labor Day weekend, depending on how this plays out.

  6. Anonymous

    Peter,It’s too late for Romney to react, which is why the Times waited in the first place. Times knows that expectations about “character” are higher among self-described conservatives. Republicans doing what Democrats do are slugs, while said Democrats are just boys being boys. Mike’s necessity to bless us with the rhetoric above speaks volumes about how elusive objectivity remains.

  7. mike_b1

    Hmmm…let’s see:-Dozens of businesses destroyed, thousands of workers laid off, all to line his own monogrammed undergarments-Bribed the NLRC-PAC for an endorsement -Jointly invested in 3Com with China’s Huawei — a known stealer of US corporate IP and run by an ex PLA officer-Rigged the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference Straw Poll by paying for College Republican votes -Bain’s purchase of Clear Channel — home to roughly 99% of the world’s conservative mouthpieces — which happened just as Romney decided to run-The vehicular homicide in France that his Church and political connections got him out of …Need I go on?Squeaky clean? More like Squeaky Fromme.

  8. Anonymous

    The McCain compaign is responsible for this. This is a win-win for them.1) If true he has about 6 months to overcome it. It’s much worse for this to come out the Thursday before election day than now.2) If not true, he is picking a fight with NY Times. An easy way to increase one’s “street cred” among conservatives.

  9. DJS

    PP: Romney’s problem was that he seemed to disagree with himself on too many issues.Doug

  10. Steve

    And more:TNR has the story about the story, and why it has taken so long to runhere.There is some speculation that this TNR story prompted the NYT to finally print something.

  11. Anonymous

    Not to get in a dispute with Mike again, but it’s absurd to only look at conservative affairs.Studds and Frank mean anything to you? Not to mention Bill Clinton and Gary Hart. As Tom Delay has said, we reprimand our bad apples (Mark Foley), you reelect yours. Also, it’s inconscionable that the Times would have held this until now. The way I saw it back in December was run it then – or never. The story doesn’t contain anything that wasn’t eluded to in the Drudge leak, and it’s still suspect as best as far as sourcing. The story itself isn’t my biggest problem though, the timing is much more concerning.

  12. mike_b1

    Ah, anon 3:03, don’t you know how much I love you? The Dems don’t hold themselves up to be the national keepers of morality; just compassion.I think the TNR story was pretty clear about the hand-wringing inside the Times over whether to publish at all, damn the “timing.”Go earlier, and people complain you’re acting like the National Enquirer. Go late, and people complain about the timing. Go never, and it’s a coverup. Which would you choose?

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