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

Further thoughts on the McCain story

Consider this a “thinking out loud” moment in the midst of a still-unfolding story. My take at this point is not particularly coherent, and there’s still a lot we don’t know — and maybe never will. But here’s where we — and I — stand two days after the New York Times reported that John McCain had an improper relationship with a female lobbyist during the 2000 presidential campaign.

Sex shouldn’t matter. That’s my beginning point in analyzing such a story. Both McCain and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, have denied a sexual relationship, and of course their denials are important. But why is the Times snooping around in McCain’s private affairs in the first place? If McCain and Iseman really did hop into bed with each other, that’s their business, and the media ought to leave it alone.

This may sound awfully cynical, but I think it’s fair to ask, based on what we’ve learned over the past few decades, how many high-profile politicians have not strayed from their marital vows at one time or another. I suspect it’s a very short list. And before you cite Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky as an example of media excess, remember: Clinton was exploiting a young intern in the workplace; there was a perjury angle; and the entire story was being driven by a government investigation. Hardly the same thing.

Anonymous sources aren’t the issue. It’s what they said. Yes, on-the-record sources are always better than anonymous whispers. But the Times, for all its flaws, is a great paper, and the reporters who worked on this story have a stellar reputation. I take it on faith that their two sources are well-connected and were quoted accurately and in context.

But what did they say? No one said McCain and Iseman were engaged in a sexual affair. Rather, they said the two were spending so much time together that aides were afraid they might be having an affair. Look at the second paragraph of the story:

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

McCain adviser John Weaver confirmed, on the record, the gist of that paragraph except for the suspicions about sex. So again, anonymous sources aren’t the issue. It’s that they offered nothing other than their suspicions that McCain and Iseman were having an affair. How did the Times reach the point that it’s reporting unconfirmed suspicions about a presidential candidate on page one?

The Washington Post version kicked butt. Because the Post stayed away from sex, it put together a solid look at how McCain’s personal relationship with a lobbyist had played out in his actions as a senator.

The Times, almost embarrassed by its own reporting, sticks in an endless, familiar backgrounder on McCain’s involvement as one of the Keating Five before returning to the matter at hand. It reads like a committee effort. By contrast, the Post offers us relevant details about Iseman — who she is, whom she lobbies for, how her clients’ needs and desires were attended to by McCain.

Timing is everything. Mitt Romney’s campaign was hurt considerably by the Times’ dallying on this story between December and this week. As I noted yesterday, there have been some hints that all of this began with a dime-drop from the Romney camp. Times executive editor Bill Keller has said the story didn’t run earlier because it wasn’t ready.

Let me engage in some wanton speculation. Keller knew the story would have a huge impact on the Republican contest. Could it be that he didn’t want to deal a blow to the McCain campaign on the basis of such a thin story? If the Post’s fine but wonky effort had come out back when the Republican race was still competitive, it probably wouldn’t have caused much harm. It’s the sex that could have cost McCain the nomination. The Times promises sex, but doesn’t deliver.

The Times’ endorsement of McCain is a non-issue. I’ve heard a number of observers question how the Times could endorse McCain knowing that the Iseman story was in the works. That’s nonsensical, given that quality papers maintain a strict separation between the editorial pages and the newsgathering operation — although, as Jay Rosen notes, publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. may have known about the story and could have warned off the editorial page.

Besides, the Times’ endorsement of McCain was remarkably backhanded, and was mainly an exercise in bashing former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who at that point was still in the race. Given the Times editorial page’s liberal world view, it’s safe to say that it would have endorsed the relatively moderate McCain no matter who he was or wasn’t having sex with. And that it will endorse the Democratic nominee over McCain in November.

It’s all or nothing now. It’s possible that the story will fizzle. But McCain issued a strong denial yesterday, raising the stakes much higher than he needed to. (Maybe it’s because he was telling the truth.) New York Times columnist David Brooks, a McCain cheerleader during his Weekly Standard days in 2000, has a fascinating piece on internal rifts within Camp McCain that concludes with this: “If it turns out that there is evidence of an affair and a meeting, then his presidential hopes will be over.”

Speaking of Brooks’ cheerleading, I dug up this excerpt from a story I wrote in 2000, when I spent a few days following McCain and his worshipful press throng across South Carolina:

In Brooks’s view, many of the reporters certainly have drunk the Kool-Aid, and though they ask tough questions, he notices a lack of bite and follow-up that he doesn’t see when the press questions other candidates. “Obviously he’s just the coolest guy, and people like cool guys,” Brooks says. “Reporters on his campaign enjoy being here, and they don’t enjoy being with other candidates.”

I also found some stuff I wrote about McCain’s exertions on behalf of the Paxson television network, the very issue now being dredged up again. Here’s what I wrote about my encounter with the senator in South Carolina:

On the morning of my second day with the campaign, spokesman Todd Harris told me I wasn’t going to get on the lead bus. Thus liberated from having to play nice, I hung around the elevator of the Greenville Hilton, waiting for McCain. I got between him and the bus and asked him a question I’d had on my mind for a couple of weeks: whether he was aware that 40,000 Pittsburgh residents were opposed to a television-license transfer that he had urged the Federal Communications Commission to act on and that would benefit one of his campaign contributors.

“No, what I had urged them [the FCC] was to act, not to take a specific position. And that was to order them to act after 700 days of not acting,” he replied, repeating an answer he had given many times already. I pressed him on the fact that there was considerable opposition to the transfer, but he didn’t drop a beat: “What the citizen activists wanted was an act against, some wanted an act for. I just wanted them to act, so I wasn’t in any way harming the views of those citizen-activists. I was asking them to act. Now if I had been asking them to act affirmatively, then that would have somehow been in opposition to those activists. So I don’t see how you draw the conclusion that I was in any way in opposition to them.”

I wanted to ask a follow-up. His bus was waiting. I said, “Thank you.” He said, “Thank you,” smiled, asked where I was from, and was on his way, Cindy on one side, an aide on the other.

So much for Straight Talk.

Yesterday I was convinced that this story would be Topic A for political junkies for at least a week. Today I’m not so sure. What I do know is that media analysts will be talking about the New York Times and its standards for some time to come.

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And about that closing


Robinson on McCain and the Times


  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for cutting through the chaff on this issue, Dan. (Esp. a reminder of how this differs from l’affair Lewinski.) So sad to see the moral equity of the Times erode at the same time that stockholders equity is circling the bowl. They are going down not with a bang but a whimper.

  2. John Doherty

    Dan said: “And before you cite Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky as an example of media excess, remember: Clinton was exploiting a young intern in the workplace;…”A thong snapping young (adult) woman, who though many years his junior, copped to having initiated the sexual connection. Monica refused to play damsel in distress for Ken Star, remember. “…there was a perjury angle;…”There was, once Clinton hating Richard Mellon Scaife managed to bankroll & revive from the dead a (twice dismissed as groundless!) discrimination suit of Paula Jones’. Scaife is currently involved in his second divorce proceedings, due to his current romance with a former hooker. Thank God the Republic has such self appointed guardians of our morals!;-)in the end, we had a pol who lied about his sex life in a witchhunt suit funded by his hypocritical bitter enemies, even though judges twice decided that if we took Paula Jones at her word, there was no crime. But it was never about that “crime” — it was always about hobbling Bill Clinton politically and overriding the people’s choice by impeachment. And the press was happy to go along for the ride. “…and the entire story was being driven by a government investigation. Hardly the same thing.”Hardly indeed. Over 70 million tax dollars were spent trying to nail Clinton on something, anything. Compare this with the meekness of the current congress in the face of grave constitutional crimes of the Bushies. Where were all the handwringers when every groundless allegation of Clinton impropriety made it onto the front page of the NYT mid 90s?The whole faux “Whitewater Scandal” ultimately dismissed as nothing at all, was a creature of Gerth & the NY Times, but no one seems bothered that they have yet to correct much of the groundless allegations they breathlessly printed back then. It’s true that it’s probably a bigger deal for McCain if he was only metaphorically “in bed” with Iseman. That is, if St. John tarnishes his halo by copping to coziness with a lobbyist, that may well further erode his shrinking appeal with independents. Yet, if McCain is running to head up the party of “Judge First Lest Ye Be Judged” party, the party that seeks to preserve marriage, etc, then screwing around is at least as relevant now as it was during Clinton’s run, when he professed no superior morality. Ain’t it?

  3. Jack Coleman

    I agree with you, Dan, tough call and the Times probably did wait to avoid affecting the outcome of the GOP primaries. By that logic, however, are reporters and editors obligated to hold off until after the election if they uncover a potential bombshell in mid-October? I think John Weaver going on the record put the story over the top, especially seeing how Weaver could quite easily have said, no comment.

  4. Anonymous

    I agree with most of what you write about the sex angle, Dan. But that was only part of the story. I think Digby (dunno how to link to her site) put it best this morning (I’m paraphrasing, here): the sex angle wasn’t necessary, it’s their business, etc. But the story points to a pattern of repeatedly making bad decisions while holding a public office. He’s surrounded himself with lobbyists, and nobody can say with a straight face that if elected, they wouldn’t be major players in his administration. He just doesn’t get it, and has been propped up by an adoring pundit fan base. The response–that all senators write letters for lobbyists, etc. isn’t an excuse. they’re not all running for president. It’s fun to watch his little MaverickStraightTalkHonorIntegrity bubble get burst, and it’s even more fun to see the pretzels his fans (aka: press corps) twist themselves into to willingly and obviously try and somehow soften the blow for this Man of Honor. Yesterday on NPR (NPR!) some reporter, giving a news account, said something like “and it’s been well known that McCain is fiercely protective of his honor and integrity.” So, Dan, I understand the issue with the sex, and you certainly make great points to that end, but it’s unfortunate the sex made it in at all, when in fact the more important angle is that McCain is just another slimy politician, no matter how hard pundits try to say he “succesfully pushed back, making this a story about the NYT.” I heard that one from Tim “I assume every phonecall is off the record” Russert last night. Gag me with a straight-talking spoon!

  5. Tony

    The whole faux “Whitewater Scandal” ultimately dismissed as nothing at all …Nothing at all? It’s these kinds of comments that really burn me. Whitewater brought down the administration of Jim Guy Tucker and tons of other people: Per a 1997 article: The following individuals also have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to Whitewater-related crimes:* Stephen Smith (former Clinton political adviser and business partner of McDougal) pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor;* Eugene Fitzhugh (owner of Townsend Financial Services, which received the $300,000 Hale loan) got a one-year sentence;* Madison real-estate dealer Robert Palmer was given three years probation;* Webster Hubbell pleaded guilty to two felony charges of defrauding the Rose Law Firm and served 18 months of a 21-month sentence;* David Hale received a 28-month sentence and three years supervised release;* Arkansas banker Neal T. Ainley got two years probation for crimes connected to Clinton’s 1990 gubernatorial race;* Whitewater real-estate broker Christopher Wade was sentenced to 15 months in prison and three years probation;* Appraiser Charles Matthews was sentenced to 28 months in prison, serving 16;* Little Rock developer Larry Kuca received two years’probation.A lot of other folks pleaded guilty to other charges. In all, 19 people around the Clintons were found guilty of charges related to the Whitewater land deal. It is important to remember that the Clintons escaped Whitewater due to “insufficient evidence” and nothing more. They were never exonerated of anything. There just wasn’t enough fingerprints to get them. Other people have been given the death penalty for less than what the Clintons did. There have been a number of books which laid out the case pretty clearly in my mind, including Roger Morris’ “Partners In Power,” Jim McDougal’s “Arkansas Mischief” [co-written by Curtis Wilkie], and Martin Gross’ “The Whitewater Fiasco.” All are easy, uncomplicated reads which lay the cases out. Anyone … ANYONE who bothered to put their partisanship in a drawer for a few hours and spent some time looking at this scandal would realize that the Clintons were guilty and they should have been brought up on charges in the matter.

  6. Suldog

    Dan:Putting aside other considerations – whether the story is legit; how it may differ from the Clinton thing – I don’t think the media should ignore whether or not they had sex.You know I’m a Libertarian, so I think you might understand that I have no problem with any sort of sexual relation. I don’t care who you do it with, where you do it, what toys you use, or any other peripherals. However, I do truly care if a person cannot be trusted. And, if a person is willing to screw their life partner by having an affair with someone else, then I consider that person wholly untrustworthy. If he/she would do that to the one person to whom they have sworn fidelity via a contractual agreement, then why should I trust that person with matters that will affect me, a person to whom they owe not even that allegiance which they so cavalierly dumped upon?Just my two cents.

  7. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 12:20: We agree completely. That’s why I’m so impressed with the Washington Post story.Tony: No one ever gets exonerated. That’s not the way the legal system works. Either there’s enough evidence or there isn’t.

  8. Anonymous

    (anon 12:20 here) Yeah, I sorta wish the WP was the only one that ran at all. A few other things that are irritating me: 1.)The new obsession with what Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and their ilk think about McCain. At least three times in the past 24 hours, while driving in my car, I’ve been talking to myself–whenever someone expresses mock incredulity that “well, Rush and Sean have been hammering him, and now they’re defending him against the NYT, so all is right with the world,” I just shouted out loud in my car, “Well, dipsticks, the only thing those gasbags hate more than John McCain is the New York Times, and they’ll never pass up an opportunity to get their digs in, no matter how it compromises their previous positions. 2.)There’s a subtle theme that’s running through all this coverage: this has to be hard on St. John, having to defend himself like this. How unseemly. It informs every word coming out of the cable news shows and most Washington news outlets. Sort of a subliminal, default position that McCain is a victim here. Compare that with the swiftboating coverage, which was most definitely of the guilty-until-proven-innocent type. 3.)I wonder what Keller’s role was in shaping the story. That TNR item had the story getting sent back and “recast.” I wonder if it got submitted with sex included, or if it got submitted sans sex and Keller wanted more sex/affair/relationship stuff.

  9. John Doherty

    JD said:”The whole faux “Whitewater Scandal” ultimately dismissed as nothing at all …”Tony said: “Nothing at all? It’s these kinds of comments that really burn me….”(followed with a laundry list of Arkansas pols ensnared in assorted associated wrongdoing) Let me clarify, as to the Clintons involvement, which is what the NY Times was initially alleging, Whitewater was ultimately dismissed as nothing at all. Specifically, the successor to Starr, robert Ray, I believe, pronounced officially he saw no wrongdoing by them. And of course, they lost money on the deal in the first place, so it’s a wierd place to look for their culpability at all. “Whitewater brought down the administration of Jim Guy Tucker and tons of other people….”Realistically, Tony, if you throw that much zeal and endless government dough at anything, don’t you think you’ll find some crime? Look at the Stalinist tactics Starr used, imprisoning poor Susan McDougal forever because she wasn’t giving the answers he preferred . All the Arkansas pols and hangers on you cite have very little, if any connection to the Clintons, and once again, their innocence, or more precisely, their lack of culpability has been firmly established in this matter. The one person close to either of them that you do cite is very much symbolic of the whole mess: “* Webster Hubbell pleaded guilty to two felony charges of defrauding the Rose Law Firm and served 18 months of a 21-month sentence;”Poor Web Hubbell– his crime of defrauding his law firm? he overbilled!Tony have you ever hired a lawyer? They all overbill clients, in my experience. Next thing you know there will be gambling in Casablanca. As Robert Penn Warren observed in the greatest American politcal novel, “There’s always something- from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud, we are born in corruption and we die in corruption”. Or put another way, you can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. Putting Hubbell in jail for “overbilling” was Ken Starr’s attempt to make someone, anyone, pay for the “justice” he imagined the Clintons were escaping.”Anyone … ANYONE who bothered to put their partisanship in a drawer for a few hours and spent some time looking at this scandal would realize that the Clintons were guilty and they should have been brought up on charges in the matter.”Did Robert Ray not bother to put his partisanship in a drawer? There is no matter in American history subject to more legal scrutiny than the Clintons’ history.The resolution contradicts your partisan take: Bill Clinton lied under oath in the Paula Jones case. The rest of it was mirrors & blue smoke. Is there anyone reading this who does not think that spending one tenth of the money spent to “get” Clinton would yield far more evidence of crimes in this successor administration? What we know already, in the absence of Congress’ oversight, surpasses anything under Clinton’s eight years in office.

  10. Ryan

    Clinton was exploiting a young intern in the workplaceI’m pretty sure this is inaccurate. She was a former intern when they had the affair. She had a paid job at the White House by then. Still the workplace, of course.

  11. Sean Roche

    I, like anon 12:20, thought that the more important part was the non-sex angle about how McCain seems to see himself above the corrupting influence of the very activities he thinks corrupts others. “Thinks” is too mild a word given his enthusiasm for anti-corruption legislation.And, today, we have McCain on the lobbyists who populate his campaign team: “These people have honorable records, and they’re honorable people, and I’m proud to have them as part of my team.”It’s the fallacy of his own personal virtue. In general, lobbyists are awful, except for the ones that I, through my own special powers of character assessment, find to be honorable.It would make a nice narrative, except for the fact that he’s already shown to have poor judgment (Keating 5) and he’s looking rather venal with regard to Paxson.

  12. Steve

    Greenwald catches McCain in a major contradiction:In issuing a very specific, point-by-point denial of the NYT story, McCain specifically denied that he ever talked to Paxson’s CEO, Lowell Paxson (or any other Paxson representative) about this matter: No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay discussed with Senator McCain the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeding. . . . No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding.But Newsweek’s Mike Isikoff today obtained (or was given) the transcripts of deposition testimony which McCain himself gave under oath several years ago in litigation over the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold. In that testimony, McCain repeatedly and unequivocally stated the opposite of what he said in this week’s NYT denial: namely, that he had unquestionably spoken with Paxson himself over the pending FCC matter: “I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue,” McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. “He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint.”

  13. Steve

    Kevin Drum reports the same problems with McCain’s recent statements regarding Paxson.And Charlie Pierce’s take in Altercation is priceless. Some excerpts:At the very least, we should know as much about Paxson Communications and Sinclair Broadcast Group as we do about, say, John Edwards’ haircut. But I would almost guarantee you that we won’t.Speaking of sensitivity to issues, shouldn’t someone at MSNBC realize that having Mike Barnicle on to talk about journalism ethics inevitably causes an epidemic of spit-takes among all of its viewers with memories that extend further back than lunch time?

  14. mike_b1

    I think the better McCain comparison is Gart Hart (and Donna Rice). By sticking his jaw out and saying they didn’t hook up, he gave license to a million “Woodsteins” to catch him in a lie.McCain says, in effect, “Trust me, because I have principles and integrity.” It’s a specious assertion, and let’s face it, the public understands “adultery” a lot better than it understands “illegal pecuniary relationship with a lobbyist.”

  15. Tony

    With all due respect John, the simple point is that a crime is a crime is a crime is a crime. This has nothing to do with Congress under Bush 43 and I can’t believe you would actually bring that into the mix. The simple fact is that there are many who believe the Clintons broke numerous laws during that land deal, that they swindled investors both big and small, they bilked the SBA of Arkansas for hundreds of thousands of dollars which Bill used as his personal slush fund, and they and the McDougals helped to run a bank into the ground and the taxpayers paid for the bailout. And then their friends helped them cover it all up. You don’t have to believe it but it is fact and there have been numerous books written about the scandal which show what they did and how they did it. All you have to do is go down to your favorite used bookstore and educate yourself as to what happened from the people who were actually involved in it with the Clintons.

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Tony: You’re a sharp guy, and I’m glad you’re commenting here. But there are also “many people who believe” that Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim, was educated in a madrassas and took his senatorial oath on a Koran.More prosecutorial firepower was directed at the Clintons than at just about anyone in the history of the country. Other than Ken Starr’s thong raid, they came up with nothing on the Clintons.

  17. Anonymous

    Dan,all due respect to you and John, I suspect your minds are pretty much made up. The only aspect where I can claim some authority is as a former auditor for the FDIC. I worked on the dissolution of banks in Arkansas and Texas as well as all over New England. Suffice it to say that Whitewater was only the tip of the iceberg. When investigators (including myself)saw what we (and our careers)were in for if we proceeded further, everyone got the message. Shed no tears for the Clintons, they got off easy. They also put the fear of God into future whistleblowers. Nobody ever said life was fair.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 6:33: I have no love for the Clintons. I believe Juanita Broaddrick. But the Republicans spent tens of millions of dollars investigating Whitewater and assorted charges. Those particular investigators would have gone on to fame and fortune if they had been able to come up with anything. And they couldn’t. That has to mean something.

  19. Anonymous

    McCain’s advisor, Charlie Black, was quoted saying, “John McCain has never done favors for anyone, not lobbyists or any special interest. That’s a clear 24-year record.”Black is talking about one of the Keating Five. I was going to say that it is astonishing that anyone would make that claim about one of the Keating Five. However, it’s not so astonishing considering how determined the media have been to forget that scandal.–Bob Gardner Randolph

  20. Amusedbutinformedobserver

    In this case, sex matters.Pols and lobbyists are pals; it’s the nature of the business. McCain’s relationship with Iseman clearly deserves scrutiny on the basis of the reformer doing favors for a friend. But if they’re crawling between the sheets, it’s beyond friendship; the senator would be doing political favors for someone with whom he has an intimate relationshipWhether one can “prove” consummation is not important when people in the campaign itself were worried about the mere speculation that could be engendered by talk of McCain and the lobbyist having an affair — although, to be sure, their fears about speculation were based more on the fear of McCain being branded with the scarlet letter of infidelity than in the fear that people would analyze public policy choices that he made against the backdrop of an intimate relationship with a paid lobbyist for special interests.The Washington Post got the best of both worlds. It avoided the criticism involved by mentioning sex … but gets to do folos on the sex angle because it was raised (and the risk taken) by another paper.

  21. Anon 6:33

    “Those particular investigators would have gone on to fame and fortune if they had been able to come up with anything. And they couldn’t. That has to mean something.” Yeah, Dan, it means the system is so corrupt that the dirt each side has on the other could result in mutually assured destruction. Unlike the end of a Tom Clancy novel, people think about their families, pensions and the expense of litigation. Being able to come up with something and being willing to make the leap of faith to do something with it are two different things. Not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties. As Jon Keller has said, it’s not about red or blue. It’s about inside or outside.

  22. mike_b1

    anon 12:27, you make it sound as if it’s impossible for an outside investigator to prove malfeseansce in Washington. With no help, Fitzgerald proved otherwise.

  23. Steve

    Anon 6:33/12:27 said “When investigators (including myself)saw what we (and our careers)were in for if we proceeded further, everyone got the message. [The Clintons] put the fear of God into future whistleblowers.”You make some pretty harsh accusations there. Do you have any evidence to back it up? If not, you are just making yet another anonymous smear against the Clintons with nothing behind it.

  24. Dan Kennedy

    Steve — If Clinton couldn’t pull strings as governor of Arkansas, that would be pretty pathetic. But the only pressure Ken Starr faced was in not coming up with something. Which is why we got sex after he struck out on Whitewater, Travelgate, etc.

  25. Steve

    Dan – if Clinton did what Anon said he did, he did more than “pull strings” – he criminally obstructed an investigation and threatened investigators. This kind of thing is at the heart of the US Attorneys scandal that the Bush administration is obstructing with their specious privilege claims. So it’s not a question about being “pretty pathetic”, it would be a question of criminality.What I am suggesting is if there were any validity to Anon’s claims of criminality, Starr would have been all over it. So I think Anon’s got nothing.

  26. Anonymous

    Dan,Sad fact is that even the concept of “striking out” is evolving. Rep. Rick Renzi is about to go to the can for a lot less than the misdeeds of the Clintons et al. (Not that he doesn’t deserve it.)

  27. Anonymous

    Is the Times really a great newspaper anymore? Their defining moments in this decade are: 1. Jayson Blair; 2. A reporter basically carrying water for the administration and playing a major role in helping mislead the country into a war; and possibly now 3. A smear campaign poking into the private life of a presidential candidate.And no, I’m not a right-winger. Just a lefty who doesn’t understand why the NYT is still held as the standard bearer when they’re possibly done more to damage the institution of journalism than anyone else in the country this decade.

  28. mike_b1

    anon 12:21: That would be alleged misdeeds.And it’s striking how many of the GOP lawmakers who simply annihilated the Clintons — both of them, as if somehow Hillary was to blame for Monicagate — in the press were guilty of the same thing (Henry Hyde, Robert Livingston, Bob Allen, Richard Curtis; not to mention Richard Mellon Scaife). Psychologists call this “projection.”

  29. Anonymous

    <<>>So let’s see if we can explore this part of your position with a hypotheical.Say a member of the Senate or House intelligence committees — obviously privy to highly sensitive information — embarks on an affair with someone who lobbies for foreign governments. That’s their business, right? Leave it alone, right?I understand this is an extreme example and ostensibly doesn’t apply in the McCain story. However, until you start asking the question, you just don’t know. To say that the media shouldn’t be examining the private lives of individuals who aspire to the most powerful job in the world is overly simplistic.The issue is really about judgment and behavior, not about sex.Did the NYT get to that point in this story? Obviously not. But I’m not ready to suggest that private lives are always off limits.

  30. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 10:47: All you’ve demonstrated is the difference between a newsworthy affair and a non-newsworthy affair.

  31. Anonymous

    Dan,Um, yes, that would be correct. And your point is? Your post seemed to suggest that a) the Times has no business examining McCain’s private conduct at all and b) that him bedding a lobbyist (if true) is nobody’s business. I beg to differ, particularly when you consider McCain’s profile on ethics and special interests.- Anon 10:47

  32. Dan Kennedy

    Anon 10:47: Your point was that it would be different if a news org were probing a sexual relationship between a member of one of the congressional intelligence committees and a lobbyist for a foreign government. I agree. But I don’t see what value that has in evaluating whether the Times was justified in sniffing McCain’s sheets.

  33. Anonymous

    Nope. My point was it is oversimplified to say that the Times shouldn’t have even been asking the question (…”sex shouldn’t matter”…”Why was the Times snooping in McCain’s private affairs in the first place?”…”it’s their business…”)If your point is that resulting piece left something to be desired, well, that’s fine. But I don’t think it means that the private lives of public officials are off limits — particularly when it involves the highest office in the land. — Anon 1047

  34. John

    The REAL story is that the FCC denied a Christian group access to a TV station because they might prostelitize their audience. The commission has a duty to rule on a matter in a timely fashion and did not do that. There was a time limit on the deal and stalling it was the same as denying it. I believe a civil rights violation was committed and the commission should be investigated.

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