Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 21, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

NON-STORY NON-COMMENTS....On a pure tribalism-backlash-unexpected-consequences level, I have to say that perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the John McCain non-affair story is the fast congealing conservative consensus that this will help McCain. After all, if the elite-liberal-America-hating New York Times is going after him, he can't be all bad, can he? Apparently McCain finally found a way to appeal to the conservative base.

Also worth noting, just for the hell of it, is Times editor Bill Keller's response when TNR reporter Gabriel Sherman called for comment:

This sounds like a pointless exercise to me — speculating about reporting that may or may not result in an article. But if that's what Special Correspondents of The New Republic do, speculate away. When we have something to say, we'll say it in the paper.

You know, if Keller doesn't want to comment, that's fine. It's an internal matter. But he does work in the news business, and he really has no call to act as if Sherman is some kind of squalid guttersnipe just because Keller's on the receiving end of some reporting instead of the other way around. He needs to get over himself.

Kevin Drum 6:52 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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Comments

Is it November yet?

Posted by: Ugh on February 21, 2008 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

But he does work in the news business, and he really has no call to act as if Sherman is some kind of squalid guttersnipe just because Keller's on the receiving end of some reporting instead of the other way around. He needs to get over himself. —Kevin Drum

Duh. The Grey Lady has been in truly spastic hands now for about fifteen years.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 21, 2008 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

The NY Times really has become a mediocre newspaper. The dirty little secret that conservatives don't talk about is that the Times has become just as hacktacular when it comes to libs as with conservatives. Starting with the non-stories about Whitewater in '92, through the Judy Miller mess in the run up to the Iraq War, their reporting has been rather shoddy. I honestly think Keller is in over his head.

Posted by: Jim on February 21, 2008 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Only the pundits and parasitic parrots think that the NYT is a liberal paper and buy into this steaming bovine plop of Orwellian hypocrisy.

Posted by: Jet on February 21, 2008 at 7:13 PM | PERMALINK

Fascinating and unexpected?!? Only if you mean in the "wow, these people are more delusional that anyone could ever have imagined" fascinating and unexpected. The fantasy process of turning (insert bad news here) into Victory For The Team! is what the republicans always do when things go wrong for them. In the collective GOP borg mind no event - no matter how disastrous - can ever redound to their detriment. Ever. One obvious example:

- Pointless, ruinously costly mess of a war in Iraq drives Bush's job approval to historic lows?
- GOP: This is so excellent for us! McCain's going to win the presidency because he wants to keep the war going forevah!!!

Just because they want to believe - and Howard Fineman's orange hair concurs - don't necessarily make it so.

Posted by: pinson on February 21, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

What a great democracy - vigorous debates all over about a non-affair in a non-newspaper populated by non-correspondents. I guess all the "news" fit to print - takes on a new meaning. Meanwhile, not a peep anywhere on Defense supplemental - see Kaplan in Slate - Supplemental war funds are a backdoor way to boost the defense budget.

link: http://www.slate.com/id/2184804

-- r

Posted by: DesiPanchi on February 21, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Keller's too busy getting over Judy Fucking-Miller.

A leg over, that is.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on February 21, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

And the economy is booming!! Put on your rose colored glasses and Waa Laaa!! McCains inappropiate behavior makes him a true conservative!!

Huh?

Posted by: Jet on February 21, 2008 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, the Texas debates are on at 7pm CST! If you don't have cable (it isn't going to be aired on the major broadcast networks) you can watch it through CNN.com

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on February 21, 2008 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

But that's how they always react when criticized: sneer at the critic, with an arrogant, "We know what we're doing, we're the bigshots around here, so beat it, punk" attitude.


You can see from Keller's flip, peeved reaction what's wrong with the media. They simply do not believe they should be subject to criticism from anywhere, and when they are, they immediately dig in. In other, real professions, that mentality will run you out of business, but since journalism has become a chummy oligarchy with no desire or capacity for self-criticism, we have the arrogant, incompetent press corps we have.

Posted by: mg on February 21, 2008 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

The article certainly was lacking substance, but it was a good lead in to the Keating 5. 4 Democrats and 1 Republicrat With uhhh bad judgement. This hasn't changed my opinion of McCain a bit. I doubt that I could vote for the weasel.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on February 21, 2008 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm just waiting, by the way, for someone to point out how virile and manly this makes McCain. A 71 year old guy still getting nooky form way younger women! What a stud! What a regular guy! Isn't he just tooooo coooool?!

Posted by: mg on February 21, 2008 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Dean puts the McCain non-affair affair in proper perspective in an interview with National Journal, here.

"I have no idea whether the affair story is true or not, and I don't care. What I do care about is John McCain ... is talking all the time about being a reformer and a maverick, and in fact, he has taken thousands of dollars from corporations, ridden on their corporate jets..."

Posted by: AJ on February 21, 2008 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

I can't decide whether this is a tempest in a teapot, or a tempest over a teapot?

Posted by: bigTom on February 21, 2008 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Sex is the story here, like it or not. Few care if McCain is as awesome as his media fluffers make him out to be. We've always know him to flipflop, cut corners, pander, etc. And afterwards, talk about it as if he failed. Which means he's really awesome!

Did McCain really need to solidify his standing with the True Believers? No. They would have come around in any instance. What McCain has done is adopt a Rovian base strategy for the general election. It means he's already ceding the independents to Obama. Which means he's already lost.

Posted by: walt on February 21, 2008 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

It's an internal matter. But he does work in the news business,

Thats better. =)

Posted by: Jet on February 21, 2008 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

Sen. John "Holier-Than-Thou" McCain's inappropriate behavior was not his alleged banging of Ms. Iseman like a cheap saloon piano, but the inherent hypocrisy occasioned by his far more obvious shilling for her telecom clients.

I would therefore suggest that's where our attention should properly be directed -- except, of course, for those tempted to publicly revel in their own latent "Daddy issues" for all the blogging world to see. You're all excused.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 21, 2008 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

mg: "I'm just waiting, by the way, for someone to point out how virile and manly this makes McCain."

Not any more.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 21, 2008 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

That would mean Keller getting over how deeply compromised he and his paper have been for the last seven years. If he wasn't so "librul", he might not feel so guilty about shilling for the enemy -- and still doing it now!

Posted by: Kenji on February 21, 2008 at 8:01 PM | PERMALINK

Given that the sources for this story appear to be Republican sources, and that it goes back to December last year, isn't the most likely explanation that this is dirt planted by his Republican opponents?

Posted by: Daniel on February 21, 2008 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

WHAT THE BLOGOSPHERE HEARS: "The NYT is shilling for/gunning for McCain! Conspiracy! Anticonspiracy! Larger Issues! Credibility! Loud noises! Loud noises!"

WHAT THE WORLD HEARS: "McCain Cheated On Wife. Wait. Maybe Not. Old, Librul Media Screws Up Again. Hey, Look. It's Almost Time For American Idol."

Methinks Keller isn't the only one who should get over himself.

Posted by: cazart on February 21, 2008 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Whew! Well, Kevin was all over the place with this post. I'll take some of his points in no particular order.

I don't have much to say about Kevin's take on Keller not commenting on a Times story and that this is a symptom of Keller's self-importance.

I don't care if Keller comments.

The right-wing's cri de couer (this-is-good-for-McCain) is a cri de load of crap. Usually only one other shoe drops. But there are lots o' shoes out there. McCain's nondenial denials don't cut it in the meantime. What a spectacle of mendacity, damage, and delusion.

I do care about Kevin's counterfactual assertion that Paxson-FCC-Iseman-McCain is not a story. How the hell does one assert that the suggested affair is a nonaffair without requiring any evidence that there was no affair? Kevin falls for these faux high-minded, foot-stomping, breath-holding, but-the-NYT-is-liberal, right-wing outbursts all the time. This is the definition of too clever by half. Make it stop. Please.

Four NYT journos believed there was an affair and not even Bill Bennett could get them to back off--not entirely.

So the story is not a nonstory for the following reasons, just for starters:

It concerns:

1. the likely GOP nominee, a 71-year-old Vietnam-era POW with serious weirdness issues who is roundly hated in the Senate

2. warring, ostensibly liberal (tee-hee) NYT bureaus

4. corruption

5. sex

6. blondes (two of them, at least: Ms. Platinum Plutonium herself, Cindy McCain, and Ms. Iseman--did they tell Maverick and Iceman jokes to each other? ick.)

7. money

um

8. telecom legislation

9. freebies and favors and protestations of integrity. I guess that's corruption, though.

Posted by: paxr55 on February 21, 2008 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe it will help McCain given the bizarre, irrational and neurotic psychology of the right wing - they will like someone just because the liberal media is bashing on them, as if that were a rational way to determine self-interest, public interest, ideological fealty, or competence.

One interesting hypocrisy and tactic of the rightist commentators like Hannity as I heard this afternoon: Call a story like this from NYT "a smear" with presumption it isn't true. Well, maybe it's true and maybe not (and somewhere in between?), but in any case it is a smear against the presenters to assert that a report is a smear if you don't know it is false. (That's right, you do have to prove a negative to assert a definite consequence of a negative, versus just being skeptical.)

tyrannogenius

Posted by: Neil B. on February 21, 2008 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

CBS Radio used the term "inappropriate relationship", which must have been from the Times article. The Times didn't accuse McCain of having an affair with this lobbyist. But, the term "inappropriate relationship" sounds like it means that when it's repeated on the radio.

The Times stands behind the facts in their story, But, the ambiguity of the description is the problem. Whether intentionally or not, the Times has smeared McCain without having facts to back up what their article imlied.

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 21, 2008 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

Why do they site Obama and Clinton the same way, every time, on these CNN debates? Like he is the King and she is the Queen?

Posted by: elmo on February 21, 2008 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Dammit, I meant "sit" not site...

Posted by: elmo on February 21, 2008 at 8:34 PM | PERMALINK

I came away, ex-lib, with a different impression after reading the NYT story today. And ambiguity is not, I think, the problem.

By the time of the Paxson plane ride with Iseman in 1999 (a freebie that McCain did not disclose as he was required), the NYT reports:

". . . some of the senators advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship [with Iseman] had become romantic that they took steps to intervene."

Both aides told the NYT journos that "McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman."

Another aide, poor John Weaver--the Petitte to McCain's Clemens in this sad, steroidal tale-- corroborates the campaign's concern ca. 2000 by going on record in this piece, describing his in-person meeting with Iseman at Union Station where he "asked her to stay away."

Drip, drip, drip

Posted by: paxr55 on February 21, 2008 at 8:46 PM | PERMALINK

It hurts McCain and renews the talk of the Keating 5. He's doomed. It makes his wife seem old, and him silly, foolish and old. His flat affect at his press conference was apparent and depression may follow. She was way too pleasant for the circumstances. All of it undercuts his repetitive integrity routine. His hypocrisy shines on since he literally tortured Bill Clinton in the 90's about Bill's affair.

Posted by: consider wisely on February 21, 2008 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Ex-liberal: "Whether intentionally or not, the Times has smeared McCain without having facts to back up what their article imlied."

As the first of the "Daddy Issues" crowd arrives in full regalia ...

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 21, 2008 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

When Washington Monthly and Kevin in this blog decry media "gotcha" interviews and reporting, a la Tim Russert, it's hypocritical to turn around and defend a magazine's "meta" reporting about whether some other newspaper is holding back printing an article, especially when they aren't completely aware of the details of why that article might be held back.

Posted by: Quinn on February 21, 2008 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

The NYT went as easy on McCain as they could.

Practically every other line is a compliment, he's principled, sincere, agonizes over his past mistakes ad nauseum. And McCain gets the last word.

No one knows, no one can prove if there was either a sexual relationship or a quid pro quo.

If this hurts, McCain, it will be from the older issues raised such as the Keating Five, not this relationship.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on February 21, 2008 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

For a year every time I saw McCain one word came to mind, feeble

With this new information a whole new word comes to mind, Viagra

He's going to make a lot of money. Imagine the McCain/Dole Viagra express. Wow! Loads of money are in play. Doesn't get any more geriatric. We're number One!

Posted by: dennisS on February 21, 2008 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

This whole McCain faux-scandal is a product of the Republican spin machine... let's wake up those depressed Republican voters! Limbaugh's radical about-face on McCain is the best indicator of this.

The Times story just said that McCain is oblivious to how people percieve things (like a young lobbyist hanging around the office), there's no substance to the relationship angle.

Posted by: leo on February 21, 2008 at 10:12 PM | PERMALINK

This whole McCain faux-scandal is a product of the Republican spin machine... let's wake up those depressed Republican voters! Limbaugh's radical about-face on McCain is the best indicator of this.

The Times story just said that McCain is oblivious to how people percieve things (like a young lobbyist hanging around the office), there's no substance to the relationship angle.

Posted by: leo on February 21, 2008 at 10:16 PM | PERMALINK

I predicted the conservatives would use this to throw him under the bus, and indeed believe they orchestrated it. I was wrong. They are using a story they probably planted months ago as a way to unite against a story they planted months ago. WTF?

Man. Republicans are just psychotic. There isn't any other word to describe it. Listen to the Limbaugh incoherent "advice" rant of today. He sounded unmedicated and dangerous.

Posted by: Sparko on February 21, 2008 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sparko: "He sounded unmedicated ..."

As wholly befitting for someone who's been on probation for a drug charge.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on February 21, 2008 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

I had the distinct impression that if Limbaugh had his way he would put all Democrats in labor camps.

I listened to Limbaugh's rant and realized that his is that kind of thinking that has to change. Obama's right we have to leave the Limbaugh brand of personal destruction behind and become Americans again. We can and will have disagreements but we don't have to be disagreeable. We have to learn to respect each other.

Posted by: Corpus Juris on February 21, 2008 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I'm considering writing a blog comment about your decision to write this post or not write this post concerning the New Republic and their attempt to interview Bill Keller concerning his decisions during the development of this story on whether John McCain decided to do or not do the lobbyist and whether it had an effect on how or what he wrote in terms of legislation (or didn't write in terms of legislation). -- particularly concerning the decision to write or not write this story and to develop it in the way that it was developed or some other way. Before I do so I was hoping you could get back to me on the political motivations that I and other commenters might have or might not have. Do you think we are trying to drive this story via innuendo and hearsay or that perhaps we might have some other motive or non-motive?

Posted by: people on February 21, 2008 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

We have to learn to respect each other.

Well CJ, I don't need to learn how to give respect. I know perfectly well how to show proper respect. But I only give it when it is earned, and I have no interest in playing nice with any of these mother fuckers until they prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they get just exactly how wrong they have been and show some real freakin' contrition. If I had my way, they would have to wear shock collars.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 21, 2008 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Wow! Either it's all true and this is just the tip of the iceburg and he's a pandering, philandering, influence peddling, corrupt, creepy, dirty old man or, it's a rightwing Republican conspiracy to rid the primary of the not-conservative-enough maverick or, it's a moderate Republican conspiracy aimed at garnering party wide support in defending the good Senator from a scurrilous attack by the leftwing media mouthpiece.
I'm leaning toward 'all the above.'

If Republicans are psychotic, I guess that would make Democrats paranoid schizophrenic.

Posted by: turtledove on February 21, 2008 at 10:56 PM | PERMALINK

Turtledove, there is something familiar about you. Are you an old regular returned, or someone who is back under a new handle for whatever reason?

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 21, 2008 at 11:08 PM | PERMALINK

b.

Posted by: turtledove on February 21, 2008 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

i think it's someone back under a new handle because he got busted making blatantly racist comments and got mocked off the blog.

Posted by: as it unfolds on February 21, 2008 at 11:13 PM | PERMALINK

aiu, (don't think that's your usual handle)

another smear job by a wm reporter. :-)

Posted by: turtledove on February 21, 2008 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

If Republicans are psychotic, I guess that would make Democrats paranoid schizophrenic. -TD

Groupthink is a terrible, pin your ideology on others with a wide brush, thing.

Posted by: Jet on February 22, 2008 at 12:09 AM | PERMALINK

Its so fun to see the cultist-like media divided =)

Posted by: Jet on February 22, 2008 at 12:10 AM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to sue the New York Times and win. The New York Times is responsible for American journalism going down the toilet bowl. What happened to professionalism, decency, honor and GENUINE news? It's interesting that a lobbyist story with NO named sources that aims to hurt John McCain comes out the day after Mrs. Obama announces that she is ashamed of her country and was never proud of being an American until 2 days ago. So now the phantom lobbyist story gets big play, while Mrs. Obama's story disappears. Hmmmm.

Posted by: Sue Arkell on February 22, 2008 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, expecting ANYBODY at the NYT to get over themselves?

Psst, Kevin, I've got the coffee over here. Take a whiff.

Desi: Yes, and too many Dems as well as Repugs will vote for those backdoor supplementals. Another reason to look Green, yes folks.

Paxr: Platinum Plutonium! Damn, that's going in my keeper file.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Mrs. Obama announces that she is ashamed of her country"

Dear heart, has it perhaps occurred to you that the problem isn't with journalism, but with your ability to read and comprehend? Free clue: Mrs. Obama has never, not once, announced that "she is ashamed of her country." Do try to get a grip.

Posted by: PaulB on February 22, 2008 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, what is a guttersnipe?

Perhaps its a person that has an opinion, without any evidence. How do we know McCain had a "non-affair"? We don't know what evidence there is, unless of course we hire Fitz to send those journalist at the NYT to jail for some real answers, but of course if Judith Miller and all her lies were entitled to a sheild law, we could not wish any less for other so-called journalist.

Keller works for the NYT, so either he has got to stand behind his journalist or leave. Because when it comes to speculations minus hard facts, isn't that what Miller did, "speculate away" her career basically. And Bill Keller certainly did see any problem with that, at least not until it became a problem. But by then it was only Miller's problem at that time, when it should have been Keller's problem too.

So than, Keller should have been fired right along with Ms. Miller. But the NYT isn't interested in cleaning itself up more than placing blame.

It's why this garbage about "liberal news" has to got to go. There is no such thing as liberal news, it was nothing but a Karl Rove lie. There is only facts or no facts. Keller doesn't know the difference since it can be noted that Keller talked often of slanting the news in favor of conservative agendas so much so that Miller got to lie about WMD. Keller used a meeting with Karl Roves as an example. Keller is not a news man, he is "for" spin man - NYT should have fired him because there is difference, Keller never understood the difference and still doesn't understand it.

Posted by: me-again on February 22, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

The story does help McCain- providing his denial is not undermined by later, actual evidence.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 22, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

guttersnipe = the common snipe [i.e. a bird] which picks food out of the gutter

Posted by: genome on February 22, 2008 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Gadfly,

Thanks. I have to credit Wolcott, however, in a post I now cannot find on the Vanity Fair site. He began, in a paean to Cindy McCain's scary blondness, by quoting Pauline Kael's review of The Sting, in which she famously commented that Redford had gone waaaaay blond, past platinum, all the way to plutonium.

So Pauline Kael, to Wolcott (in a now-pulled post, apparently), to PA, to your keeper file!

Posted by: paxr55 on February 22, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

Actually this is a devious attempt by the McCain people to make him appear more like Bill Clinton so that when Obama wins the nomination Hillary's Horde will have a suitable substitute.

Posted by: TruthPolitik on February 22, 2008 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Bill Keller on Judith Miller: “It’s a little galling to watch her pursued by some of these armchair media ethicists who have never ventured into a war zone or earned the right to carry Judy’s laptop.”

Posted by: zeno2vonnegut on February 22, 2008 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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