Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 22, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE TIMES SPEAKS....Really, this is unbelievable. Here is New York Times executive editor Bill Keller in an online Q&A declaring himself surprised by both the volume and the lopsidedness of the reaction to Wednesday's John McCain non-affair story. Then his surprise continues:

And, frankly, I was a little surprised by how few readers saw what was, to us, the larger point of the story. Perhaps here, at the outset of this conversation, is a good point to state as clearly as possible our purpose in publishing.

[Blah blah blah]

The point of this "Long Run" installment was that, according to people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation. The story cites several examples, and quotes friends and admirers talking of this apparent contradiction in his character. That is why some members of his staff were so alarmed by the appearance of his relationship with Ms. Iseman. And that, it seemed (and still seems) to us, was something our readers would want to know about a man who aspires to be president.

The "larger point." Right. This is just embarrassing. Everybody with a pulse knows that no one is criticizing the Times for reporting that McCain was doing the bidding of a lobbyist and campaign contributor. Rather, this story has gotten saturation coverage because the Times has been careful to refer to Vicki Iseman as a "female lobbyist" on practically every occasion it can — including the introduction to the very Q&A Keller is taking part in. Times reader aren't children. We all know what this means, and we all know perfectly well that the Times piece loudly insinuated some kind of inappropriate romantic involvement between McCain and Iseman. So far, though, the Q&A has addressed only the peripheral subjects of what "Long Run" pieces are like, what the Times' policy on anonymous sources is, and the Chinese wall between the newsroom and the editorial page staff. Riveting stuff.

And the elephant in the room? Missing in action so far. Do you think they'll ever get to it?

UPDATE: Several hours into the Q&A, Jill Abramson finally gets around to the elephant:

We believed it was vital for the story to accurately reflect the range of concerns shared by our sources....If the editors had summarily decided to edit out the issue of romance, because of possible qualms over "sexual innuendo" or some of the others issues cited in the reader questions, our story would not have been a complete and accurate reflection of what our sources told our reporters. The editors and the reporting team believed it was important for readers to know what could have concerned top advisers so much that they confronted their boss. We believe the story did this fairly and accurately, giving readers as much information as we could.

That's it? Abramson acts as though the rules for dropping a tactical nuke are the same as they are for authorizing a mortar attack. But she knows perfectly well how incendiary this stuff is. Surely it requires a little more justification than "this was a vague suspicion that a few guys had at the time"?

I dunno. Abramson is right when she says, "Documents are always useful in reporting, but they are not required." Still, reporters don't just uncritically pass along everything every source tells them, and in this case her sources didn't provide any evidence at all that McCain was romantically involved with Iseman. It was just a concern they apparently had — maybe well founded, maybe not. Is that really enough?

But I'm also intrigued by Abramson's claim that the Times piece gave readers "as much information as we could." That's not the same thing as "all the information we had." Does this signify something, or am I reading too much meaning into her choice of words?

Kevin Drum 1:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (69)

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Comments

Yes Kevin you are right, but your outrage is missing the key story that the Post has picked up upon. The headline is "The Anti-Lobbyist, Advised by Lobbyists".

McCain has posed as a steadfast guardian of clean politics un-sullied by the bag men that permeate Washington. His narrative includes how he was chastened by his involvement in the Keating Five affair. This story and the Post followup (that ignores the panty sniffing angle)ends the free ride that McCain has enjoyed since 2000.

I have read and heard several comments by so-called liberals that profess to admire McCain because of his pristine image.

The Vicki Iseman story coupled with the story on McCain's shady dealings in trying to back out of the public financing system by skirting the rules goes a long way to deflating the "straight talk" narrative.

Without his "straight talk maverick" armor, McCain is just a grouchy old Republican who essentially wants to double down on Bush's eternal war doctrine and continue the Republican's tax cut fetish.

Posted by: sluggo on February 22, 2008 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

I haven't said anything nice about the WaPo in a LONG time, but I have to say they have done a far better job than the Times, so far, on the real story here.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on February 22, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, your post is weird and inexplicable. If the Times's point is at least that McCain didn't really care about not looking like he was having an affair, then the fact that it was a female lobbyist he was hanging out with all the time is integral to making that point, so of course they would emphasize that fact in the course of making the point.

From your piece, it looks like it's you who doesn't get it.

Posted by: Swan on February 22, 2008 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Kevin thinks that if a married man is seen going out on dates with a younger woman, the man's wife shouldn't care about it.

Posted by: Swan on February 22, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Keller, a truely despicable and dishonorable man in every way. First they publish his hit job on McCain on the front page based entiredly on anonymous sources. Then they publish John and Cindy McCain's denial on page A20. Is the bias not obvious to everyone?
Then they defend their false allegation of adultery by refusing to talk about it but by pretending it's only a McCain-is-corrupted-by-lobbyist story. The liberal media does it again. There is NOTHING to this adultery story. It's made of green cheese. Is it really worth it to destroy the marriage of Cindy and John McCain by spreading lies just so that the liberal media can have its way again?

Posted by: Al on February 22, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

As a direct result of the NYT story McCain has told at least half-a-dozen substantial, verifiable lies on the record in very public venues. I really can't see a story where there is "no there there" causing so much disruption that a presidential candidate spins out of control like that.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 22, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

I guess Kevin thinks that if a married man is seen going out on dates with a younger woman, the man's wife shouldn't care about it.


I believe the French have a saying that goes something like, "Every time a man marries his mistress, it creates a job opening."

Posted by: Snarkworth on February 22, 2008 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

McCain: Veni, Vidi, Vicki!

Posted by: Mike on February 22, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: we all know perfectly well that the Times piece loudly insinuated some kind of inappropriate romantic involvement between McCain and Iseman.

Again, no. What the Times article do was to report that McCain's staff was so worried about such a possibility that it confronted McCain as well as Iseman. This, in itself, is newsworthy and fair game for an article on a presidential nominee.

Posted by: JS on February 22, 2008 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, but Kevin and Al, Isikoff now weighs in... and it isn't about the adultery part.
(via TPM)

http://www.newsweek.com/id/114505

A sworn deposition that Sen. John McCain gave in a lawsuit more than five years ago appears to contradict one part of a sweeping denial that his campaign issued this week to rebut a New York Times story about his ties to a Washington lobbyist.
----
Just hours after the Times's story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff—and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," the campaign said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. "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."


Posted by: pol on February 22, 2008 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Re Bill Keller: It takes a hypocrite to catch a hypocrite, or in this case, a putz to catch the schmuck of the Schmuck Talk Express.

Re Keller's Chinese wall: Tell us who exactly sits on the editorial board and we might believe you. At smaller papers, at least, top news staff are on the editorial board. Publishers, who straddle the whole newspaper, usually are, too.

Speaking of that, fuck Keller. What did Pinch think of all this? What does he think now? Is he wishing McCain had elbowed in on Scooter Libby and bagged Judith Miller instead?

Speaking of that, why hasn't the Times ever done a story on Miller and every news source with whom she "behaved inapprpriately"?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't this a case of the reporters having a hohum storey about potential lobbyist influence, and image carelessness, that the editors choose to dress up with innuendo. The reporters want to report a story, the editors want to sell copy by utilizing the time tested method of sex scandal. So both situations are simultaneously true, depending upon whether you take the point of view of the reporters, or of the editor.

Posted by: bigTom on February 22, 2008 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Re editorial endorsements: More papers are moving away from them as a face-saver, because they don't really influence anybody. Dirty little secret of the biz.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I declare myself surprised by the volume and the lopsidedness of Kevin's reaction.

Posted by: Lucy on February 22, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

This is precisely why I think this was a "Dan Ratherization".

McCain insiders heard The Times was going after the Paxson connection.

They plant the story about the possible romantic liaison with the pretty blond lobbyist.

The firestorm that results pushes the actual incriminating story - that "Straight Talk" McCain routinely carries water for lobbyists - off the front pages.

And after that, whenever anyone brings up the lobbyist issue, McCain says "We addressed that, it was proven to be false, time to move on."

Posted by: seaside jeremy on February 22, 2008 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

There still seems to be a lot of latent McCain love on the left.

To the extent that a conservative Republican presidential candidate is going through a mistress scandal, shouldn't we lefties, at the very least, sit on our hands and watch it play out? I mean fair play is all well and good, but the other side doesn't play fair ever. Wouldn't it be a good thing if the country was telling jokes about McCain chasing after mistresses half his age? It's not like there's no history of him doing exactly that.

And the lies and lobbyists angle of this story clearly has legs. What is KD's point in trying to tamp this down?

This just goes to show you once again how the old adage is true: a liberal is someone who won't take his own side in an argument.

Posted by: Rob Mac on February 22, 2008 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of that, why hasn't the Times ever done a story on Miller and every news source with whom she "behaved inapprpriately"? Posted by: SocraticGadfly

Because she's really unattractive? Perhaps Ms. Iseman is not everyone's "cup of tea." But Judy probably never gets it with the lights on.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 22, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

The big things about the McCain story is the dishonesty. It really gets me that this man who holds out this image of himself as so nice and honest is really this terrible, dishonest adulterer.

Posted by: Swan on February 22, 2008 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff, true, even if she was in the bag with Scooter in the aspens in autumn.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

If the Times had reported random rumors about a McCain affair, or offered that possibility on their own, that would have been insinuation and innuendo.

But when they report that more than one McCain staffers confronted McCain and Iseman about the appearaance of impropriety, and that McCain admitted acting "improperly" and "pledged" to stay away from Iseman, that's not insinuation nor innuendo. That's a report on events that are important as they relate to a presidential nominee.

Of course, if the Times cannot or will not document these reported confrontations of McCain aith his staff, then it has a Dan Rather problem.

Posted by: JS on February 22, 2008 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

10 years of Clinton hatred, spawned by Jeff Gerth, for which the Times has not once apologized, and which the Republicans -- and, of course, the Obama campaign -- heavily leverage and nobody says Boo.

So now they run one story about McCain?

I'm playing the world's teeniest, most microscopic violin for this guy.

Posted by: lambert strether on February 22, 2008 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Will just a few liberals please hold the NYT responsible for this sloppiness. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE.

My reason for this is selfish. Years back I used to read the NYT all the time. I realized there was a liberal slant to it, but the writing was so engaging, and the coverage so professional, that even as a conservative I enjoyed the paper.

The Old Gray Lady fell from this position of "All the News That is Fit to Print" a long time ago. Conservatives like me have no effect on the NYT. We have long ago lost hope that this once great paper may recover its purpose. Worse than the becoming a propaganda rag, it has become a place where unprofessional journalism thrives.

I plead with the members of this site to try to make the NYT see the error of its ways. Perhaps it can be recovered.

Posted by: John Hansen on February 22, 2008 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Seaside jeremy, I have a soft spot for tricky double-cross strategies - but they are too risky and leave "stains" in onlookers' minds, for most rational agents to carry out deliberately. Just maybe.

Posted by: Neil B. on February 22, 2008 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, the NYT's CYA article you linked to? Don't you think Keller himself Kellerized Richard W. Stevenson's initial story response to ask stump the NYT as much as Keller Kellerized the actual story?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

And after that, whenever anyone brings up the lobbyist issue, McCain says "We addressed that, it was proven to be false, time to move on."

Seaside Jeremy, that's clever, except how does McCain ever prove he *didn't* have an affair with Ms. Isengard (h/t poorman)? The Dan Rather thing was so clever because of the forged documents - a provably false detail that made the whole story go away. What's the provably false detail here?

Posted by: Emma Anne on February 22, 2008 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Unless they had the affair with this woman nailed down to a "t", they should've just left that part of the angle out of it and went with the shady lobbying. There's plenty there. It probably would've been just a speedbump for McCain's campaign, but it would've been something they could really stand behind.

Posted by: FuzzFinger on February 22, 2008 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Will Robinsons! Warning! Danger! Concern troll!

Will just a few liberals please hold the NYT responsible for this sloppiness. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE. Posted by: John Hansen

Why? It's not a liberal paper. Hasn't been a liberal paper since the 1980s. If it were a liberal paper, do think they would have ridden the Whitewater non-story into the ground? If if were a liberal do you think Shrub would ever have been elected president? If it were a liberal paper why would they have employed William Safire and why would they have hired David Brooks and now his old boss, William Kristol?


Posted by: Jeff II on February 22, 2008 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK
Will just a few liberals please hold the NYT responsible for this sloppiness.

You mean, the "sloppiness" of deliberately holding back a negative article on a candidate the paper was endorsing, and only publishing it in neutered form because someone else was about to publish a story about them spiking it? Lots of liberals have already blamed them for that.

If you mean, instead, the sloppiness of the story itself viewed without considering the context above, well then some "liberals" (such as our own host here, in several of his posts on the story) have blamed the NYT for that, too.

Really, liberals have no affection for the NY Times. Its only a paper that liberals are fond of in the irrational delusions that reverberate throughout the right-wing echo chamber.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the problem here is that we're talking about a case where the evidence the Times has offered is relevant, but it's what a lawyer might call "prejudicial." The really salacious and scandalous hot-button content of the story, that is only hinted at but not proved, is so overwhelmingly juicy in a political context that its prejudicial effect overwhelms the probative value it has for the less salacious claim about bad judgment.

Obviously, however intrinsically significant it is to raise the question of whether McCain shows bad judgment in choosing his acquaintances, the Times must have known perfectly well that what everyone was going to be talking about is whether he actually had an affair. There is nothing like screaming "sex scandal" to drive the media and public into a frenzy. I really don't think the Times should have gone with this until they had nailed down the answer to the big question: did he or didn't he.

Anyway, as a partisan Democrat, this pisses me off. The Times has now successful rallied Republicans around their recently stumbling and divisive standard bearer, and breathed new life into the old "liberal media" charges. Nice move assholes.

Posted by: Dan Kervick on February 22, 2008 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

The NYT has already entered the death spiral.

The only question that remains is the size of the impact crater.

Posted by: gravity on February 22, 2008 at 3:20 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II hit a home run. The right side of the blogosphere and the mighty Wurlitzer are stunned that the liberal blogs aren't deep into defending the NYT story. Why? The NYT is the rag that employed Judy Miller and Jason Blair. It currently employees Bill Kristol, and David Brooks. It sat on this story as long as it could until its hand was forced by The New Republic, that's right The New Republic. The NYT endorsed St. John just a couple of months ago. The NYT isn't a liberal paper. There is no love lost between the liberal blogs and the NYT.

Anyway if St. John was fooling around on his wife that is between him and Carol (er Cindy.) The story is that St. John trades in lobbyist favors. That is the story that is coming out and that is the story that has been nailed to the barn door. Today it is also coming out that St. John is a big ass liar first class.


Posted by: corpus juris on February 22, 2008 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK

No, Kevin. You omitted the key reply from the NYT editors.

Here, again, is what you wrote: "We all know what this means [i.e., "female lobbyist"], and we all know perfectly well that the Times piece loudly insinuated some kind of inappropriate romantic involvement between McCain and Iseman."

The NYT "loudly insinuated" nothing of the sort. It reported that two close McCain aides from the 2000 campaign themselves believed McCain was romantically connected with Iseman. Again, this is not an insinuation. It is not innuendo. It is not sliming. It is not liberal. It's the barest fact gussied up, I grant you, with a euphemism (romantic). (There's a pretty limited store of seemly synonyms for this kind of lobstitute story. I thought "romantic" was a little over the top. But I wasn't editing the piece. Apparently Keller was.)

A named source, Weaver, corroborates the facts and has supplemented them today in more extended remarks. Moreoever, the editors know who the unnamed sources are. Weaver knows who they are.

Here is the initial Times account:


That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator�s advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.

Jill Abramson explains the use of anonymous sources in the same q and a you link above. She links to their house policy and observes that the Times has a standards editor for just these sorts of stories:

Much as we prefer on-the-record (or even documentary) information, and editors and reporters push hard on sources to let us use their names, without the ability to protect sources, newspapers would not have been able to report on important activities of the government and other powerful institutions, and political reporting would be much more a kind of event-driven stenography.

Our mission is to inform our readers, which includes giving as much information as possible about sources. Our new standards require that when we use anonymous sources we disclose and publish as much as we can about their backgrounds and motivations. In the McCain story we had named sources and anonymous sources. We disclosed as much about them as we could. In the case of two anonymous sources, the story said, "The two associates, who said that they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others."

The potential bias of "disillusioned" sources was carefully weighed against their accounts. The sources corroborated one another without orchestration, an issue, among others, that our team meticulously investigated. During the long process of our reporting on the story, we attempted, time and time again, to persuade our sources to go on the record and let us use their names. Again, there are named sources in the story but some sources continued to insist on maintaining the cloak of anonymity. As we neared publication, both the editors and the reporting team once again tested the veracity of these sources to make sure every fact in the story was accurate. We were all fully satisfied.


Posted by: paxr55 on February 22, 2008 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

Jeff II hit a home run. Posted by: corpus juris

Finally! I'm so tired of getting all hot and bothered and never getting past third.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 22, 2008 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Finally! I'm so tired of getting all hot and bothered and never getting past third.

I warned you about wearing those vintage Paul Tsongas t-shirts out in public, but you never listen to me.

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

Nice move assholes

Even the always articulate, even-tempered and insightful Dan Kervick among us has been reduced to using the term "assholes."

Indeed these are the End Times.

(Been a fan for a loooong time, btw).

Posted by: trex on February 22, 2008 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "And the elephant in the room?"

The elephant in the room is that John McCain says "Everybody says that they’re against the special interests. I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to" (New Hampshire, November 2007) when in fact McCain is one of the top recipients of special interest money in the Senate, including nearly $1.2 million in campaign contributions from the telephone utility and telecom service industries, more than any other Senator. And both his Senate office and his presidential campaign organization are packed with corporate lobbyists.

Whether or not McCain went to bed with Iseman and lied about it is not the issue; the issue is that John McCain has always been in bed with corporate lobbyists throughout his career, and has always lied about it, and continues to lie about it.

The elephant in the room is that John McCain is a deliberate liar, a phony, and a fraud.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 22, 2008 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

It worries me that Dan Kervick thinks the Times story is a Bad Thing.

I figure Republicans would close ranks around McCain eventually, and the "liberal media" meme is not going away no matter what. Meanwhile, McCain is exposed as a fraud, and I'd be willing to bet that as we speak the TV talking heads are shaking their heads over the way Sen. Straight Talk gets in bed with the lobbyists.

Posted by: Lucy on February 22, 2008 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

I should mention that that last bit of hyperbole is based on a snippet of TV I watched this am.

Posted by: Lucy on February 22, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK
Maybe the problem here is that we're talking about a case where the evidence the Times has offered is relevant, but it's what a lawyer might call "prejudicial." The really salacious and scandalous hot-button content of the story, that is only hinted at but not proved, is so overwhelmingly juicy in a political context that its prejudicial effect overwhelms the probative value it has for the less salacious claim about bad judgment.

Since its pretty much dispositive on the question of bad judgement irregardless of whether the most salacious implications are true, I find it hardly credible to describe it as one where the prejudicial effect overwhelms the probative value, even assuming that the analogy is remotely valid in the first place.

And, beyond that, the analogy is grotesquely invalid because, unlike a court of law, while there may be subjectively undesirable (in the view of various participants) bases for voting decisions by the electorate, the whole principle of democratic governance is overthrown if we suggest that there is a categorically illegitimate bases for such a such a decision that warrant excluding true and relevant information from the domain of public discussion because of the risk that it might motivate voting on such an "illegitimate" basis. This is a rather critical difference between the electoral process and the legal system: in the latter, their are categorically illegitimate bases for decisions by triers of fact such that the description of evidence as "prejudicial" is both sensible and relevant to important considerations in the administration of the system.

In the political system each member of the electorate is and must be free to decide what is the appropriate basis for a vote. In, say, a jury trial, there is a narrow basis given that the integrity of the system (and the separation of the jury's role as trier of fact vs. that of the judge as trier of law) demands must be defended against possible distortion even, at times, when that comes to protecting the system against information that might be to some modest degree legitimately relevant.

In the political system, OTOH, there is no basis for third-party gatekeepers keeping even relevant information away from the voting public because people might respond to the wrong bits of it.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK
Whether or not McCain went to bed with Iseman and lied about it is not the issue;

Well, its pretty clear that he figuratively went to bed with Iseman, and lied about it (either now or in his earlier deposition, and the former is certainly more credible.)

Whether the bed part was literally true or not is, as you say, mostly irrelevant.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Whether the bed part was literally true or not is, as you say, mostly irrelevant. Posted by: cmdicely

Not to the "religious" right, whose support he must have to make even a contest of it in November.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 22, 2008 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Ha anyone mentioned that the NYT did the same thing to Bill and Hillary Clinton with a front page article last April? The same kind of unsubstantiated insinuation of an affair, private plane flights, etc., only instead of right wing outrage, it was covered by Chris Matthews, Wolf Blitzer, et. al., with titilation.

Posted by: fcadmus on February 22, 2008 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK
Not to the "religious" right, whose support he must have to make even a contest of it in November.

The religious right hasn't seemed to have any problem supporting Republicans with similar incidents in their history, as long as they continued to be hypocritically puritanical in their public stances toward sexual behavior, and spout the right platitudes about traditional families. The leaders of the "religious" right will also find an excuse to guide their flock to ignore or forgive Republicans who will follow their line in Washington, and will always find excuses to lead their flock in a crusade against those who don't. The substance of their politicians behavior doesn't really matter all that much.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

The leaders of the "religious" right will also find an excuse to guide their flock to ignore or forgive Republicans who will follow their line in Washington, and will always find excuses to lead their flock in a crusade against those who don't. The substance of their politicians behavior doesn't really matter all that much. Posted by: cmdicely

So this explains why they didn't support Bush the Elder?

Posted by: Jeff II on February 22, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

The leaders of the "religious" right will also find an excuse to guide their flock to ignore or forgive Republicans who will follow their line in Washington, and will always find excuses to lead their flock in a crusade against those who don't.

And this distinguishes them from liberals who always "...ignore or forgive [Democrats] who will follow their line in Washington.." how?

Posted by: John Hansen on February 22, 2008 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

And this distinguishes them from liberals who always "...ignore or forgive [Democrats] who will follow their line in Washington.." how? Posted by: John Hansen

No. The distinction is that Democratic policy isn't uniformly shit, sold on lies and fear, and designed pretty much to fuck over anyone not white and/or making $200K or more a year. Otherwise, your right.

Posted by: Jeff II on February 22, 2008 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Please, CM, I hate the use of "irregardless." The word is "regardless."

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Ha anyone mentioned that the NYT did the same thing to Bill and Hillary Clinton with a front page article last April?

Don't know about last April, but in May 2006 the NYTimes had a front-page article about the Clintons' married life in the context of a possible presidential run by Hillary.

In it, they mentioned tabloid rumors about Bill having an affair with a Canadian politician:


Several prominent New York Democrats, in interviews, volunteered that they became concerned last year over a tabloid photograph showing Mr. Clinton leaving B.L.T. Steak in Midtown Manhattan late one night after dining with a group that included Belinda Stronach, a Canadian politician. The two were among roughly a dozen people at a dinner, but it still was enough to fuel coverage in the gossip pages.

The PA archive shows that Kevin blogged about this but completely ignored to the bit about Bill's alleged affair (maybe because it's not news for Bill, but it is for John). What Kevin said was:

Now look. This is totally legitimate. The Clintons are a power couple, and the public has a right to know precisely how much, um, up-close time they have with each other. In fact, they're lucky that a quality outfit like the Times did this research instead of some lunatic blogger.

He then offered to subject himself and Marian to the same scrutiny, which suggests that it was all said tongue-in-cheek. Still, no outrage at the Times about that -- at most, just a joke. And it wasn't even about a lobbyist.

Posted by: JS on February 22, 2008 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK
So this explains why they didn't support Bush the Elder?

As I recall, they did in 1988, and like much of the rest of the plutocratic Right, he lost their support after the reversal on the whole "No New Taxes" thing; he wasn't abandoned because of an affair or some kind of personal pecadillo. So, yes, I'd say it does.


Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 6:28 PM | PERMALINK
And this distinguishes them from liberals who always "...ignore or forgive [Democrats] who will follow their line in Washington.." how?

I was responding to a claim that a particular act would be a political liability for McCain with a particular political faction. I was not making a comparative statement, so the premise of the question is misplaced. No comparison was stated or implied, so asking what the justification of the comparison is asks a nonsense question.

When I want to state a comparison, I will state a comparison.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK
Please, CM, I hate the use of "irregardless." The word is "regardless."

Well, "regardless" is a word, but so is "irregardless" (though its frowned upon by elitists). Had I thoroughly proofed that post (which I don't, generally; blog commenting not paying enough to justify it) I probably would have replaced it with "irrespective", since I just don't like the "regardless of whether or not" formation as much as "irrespective of whether or not". I prefer "regardless" for situations where the choices aren't enumerated, as in "regardless of the truth of the story" (vs. "irrespective of whether the story is true or false".)

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK
As I recall, they did in 1988,

In the general, that is: of course he wasn't their favorite candidate in the primaries, but then, neither has McCain been for the religious conservatives this time around.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Lucy, I'll have to confess another motivation. I am very much looking forward to Obama against McCain, because I think McCain will be thrashed by Obama. McCain is a temperamental, burned out gaffe machine, with a self-confessed ignorance of economics, trying to run for President during a recession. He's also not particularly bright, and I suspect that as the campaign wears on, he can be counted on for at least a half-dozen major bloopers. I predict Obama in a cakewalk.

But now I worry that the revelations from this scandal will accumulate, that McCain might be forced out of the race, and that some more electable Republican alternative will be inserted to replace him. A lot of Republicans were intensely disappointed with their presumptive nominee anyway, and think his victory is a weird accident created by the dynamics of a three-person race.

So I wish this scandal hadn't come so soon.

Posted by: Dan Kervick on February 22, 2008 at 7:09 PM | PERMALINK

**

Posted by: mhr on February 22, 2008 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Kevin's update, with the Abramson replies in the NYT online Q and A:

Abramson is right when she says, "Documents are always useful in reporting, but they are not required." Still, reporters don't just uncritically pass along everything every source tells them, and in this case her sources didn't provide any evidence at all that McCain was romantically involved with Iseman. It was just a concern they apparently had maybe well founded, maybe not. Is that really enough?[emphasis mine]

Kevin, I'm sorry, but this is you at your most facile, and you do this all the time (and may I add how annoying it is): mischaracterize the emphasis or weight of a story element in an original piece of reporting.

In the original reporting, the two anonymous sources--known to the NYT editors and questioned and interviewed at length--were more than "apparently concerned" about Iseman. They were reported to have "repeatedly confronted" McCain about her. A third named source corroborates this parlous situation surrounding McCain. This is not concern. This is something close to campaign apoplexy.

Apoplexy about the appearance of corruption involving a front-running GOP candidate is unusual and therefore deserving a front-page NYT story.


Posted by: paxr55 on February 22, 2008 at 7:44 PM | PERMALINK

Dan Kervick: ...some more electable Republican alternative will be inserted to replace him.

But who?

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

And the elephant in the room?

Well she is a female and she did have McCain's attention a lot, money or no - and she was told to stay away from McCain, and was piss-off because of it.

Was it the fact that Vicki Iseman was female, and not just merely a very attactive female or was it simply the money? I don't think anyone can slam the NYT for saying "the female lobbyist", and that she, somehow was magiclly able to opened doors when it comes to meetings with McCain, - you know, as the Newsweek says.

What's wrong Kevin? If only the news didn's say anything bad about Republicans. I mean, all that Jennifer Flowers stuff was certainly okay when it came to Clinton, the bad press could say all it wanted too.

Why was she told to stay away after keeping so much company with McCain?

Posted by: me-again on February 22, 2008 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

It appears to me that the Times isn't required to prove a romantic connection when what they were being told is that people close to the Senator were warning the lady away and warning him about their perceptions of his relationship with her. I think that if the reporting of the events I just described above is accurate, then the reporting speaks for itself. You are the one who is drawing conclusions beyond what is reported in the article. This has less to do with smoke and fire than with the internal conduct of the Senator and his campaign staff. As to the issue of lobbyists, the article does speak disturbingly for itself, not so much for the idea that McCain is not so far removed from lobbyists, as for his projected image that this distance is so much greater than the reality.

Posted by: rbe1 on February 23, 2008 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

"Is it really worth it to destroy the marriage of Cindy and John McCain by spreading lies just so that the liberal media can have its way again?"

Damn you, Fake Al! Your rapier sarcasm makes children of us all!

Posted by: Steve Paradis on February 23, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Dan Kervick: ...some more electable Republican alternative will be inserted to replace him.

shortstop: But who?

The right, in response to the "hard left" New York Times' "character assassination" of McCain (Newt on Fox), has rallied behind McCain. Are they then going to unrally?

It may be due to factoring in the Alternate Reality Variable that brought us two terrible reckonings in the past 8 years, but I've thought McCain was the Republicans' best shot. He's a white war hero who's convinced a lot of people that he's a straight-talking "moderate", and he's married to a rich blonde and former special-ed teacher who we now know to be mega-patriotic. He's the default candidate for racists, Republicans, and many indies. Yes, Obama will cream this hideous old imposter and warmongerer in the debates, but since when have debates mattered? McCain will muse on his days in the Hanoi Hilton, whip up some nationalist fervor, trot out his wife to cry "God Bless America", and give Obama a run for his money.

Yes, McCain is a hothead, but that's OK.

Women aren't allowed to be angry.

Black men aren't allowed to be angry.

White men? Allowed to be angry.*

What about diddling young courtiers (of the opposite sex)?

Women not allowed to diddle.

Black men--please!

White men? If Democratic, vilified! If Republican, admired for studliness!

*especially against Our Enemies Who Are Plotting Right Now to Destroy Us All, not to mention The New York Times.

Posted by: Lucy on February 23, 2008 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

For what it's worth, I think that "the elephant in the room" in this story is really the Beltway Media's love of St. John of Arizona.

They'll explain away everything to aid their Straight Talker achieve his lifelong dream of becoming president.

I could actually FEEL Gloria Borger's pain for her Maverick on CNN the other day.

Posted by: fjschmitz on February 23, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

I don't have an opinion on this one way or another. But this...
But she knows perfectly well how incendiary this stuff is. Surely it requires a little more justification than "this was a vague suspicion that a few guys had at the time"?

is a cheap shot. Mischaracterizing what someone says to make a point is bad enough but standard fare for our current discourse...

e.g., Surely it requires a little more justification than a vague suspicion that a few guys had at the time?

But putting it within quotes is unprofessional and really unlike you.

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on February 23, 2008 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

I suppose Ms. Iseman could have been referred to as a "testoserone-challenged lobbyist". Actually, I prefer the words "courtesan" or "concubine". They have a vintage more befitting of the ancient Mr. McCain.

For Gods sakes, progressives, find some balls and fight these right-wing bastards with the same ammunition they fire at us. If the media would have done their job before the 2000 election and exposed Bush's criminality, drug use, desertion from the National Guard and homosexual liaisons (Google Victor Ashe), we wouldn't have this pile of human sewage stinking up the Oval Office!!!

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 23, 2008 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Make that "testosterone" - my bad.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 23, 2008 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Apoplexy about the appearance of corruption involving a front-running GOP candidate is unusual"
Posted by: paxr55 on February 22, 2008 at 7:44 PM

paxr nails it.
The normal Repuke response to any corruption, or appearance thereof, by any Rethug at all, occupying or running for any office, is adulation, strong and unified support (in the MSM and in $), and screaming that the Clintoons were much worse*.


*Unless it involves gay sex.

Posted by: smartalek on February 23, 2008 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

In the latest book containing Arthur Sclesinger's daily diary, he wrote in 1999 that john McCain could not be a viable candidate for the presidency because "of his wayward sex life". If his sex life was commonm knowledge, why is the NYTimes and every investigative reporter dancing around it?

Posted by: al green on February 23, 2008 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

In the world we live in, men have business dealings with women. Sometimes those men are powerful or rich, and sometimes those women are younger and attractive. At what point does behavior become inappropriate? Does Tab A need to go into Slot B? Or is there some earlier point where it just looks bad? The body language makes it look bad, the sessions behind closed doors with no windows look bad, even if you think nothing went on.

One might think that Sen. McCain was very easy to influence with the right sort of (attractive, young, female) lobbyist. And that definitely looks bad.

If he's going to be president, he'd better keep his business negotiations and his sex life separate. He'd better not be one of these guys who's head is so easily turned, and that allows his desires to influence his business.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on February 23, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

It's unfortunate that emphasis on the "female lobbyist" distracted everyone from the importance of this story. As the first commenter noted, that's the story Mr. Straight-talk, "the anti-lobbyist" regularly works for lobbyists, does their bidding, recruits them to run his campaign. That's the story overlooked in the hysteria from "revealing", in an exclusive "scoop" that Vicki Iseman, Ms. Vicki Iseman, is a female.

Posted by: Zane on February 25, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Play Backgammon for fun - for free, when ever you feel like it - midday or midnight there are are literally thousands of people playing Backgammon

online backgammon - http://www.nacr.net/ Posted by: online backgammon on February 26, 2008 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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