For many conservatives already suspicious of Senator John McCain, the New York Times endorsement of him did not help. It was just a matter of time, however, before the liberal mouth piece would turn on McCain. And now that he has the nomination locked up, the Times has run a hit piece that catalogs McCain's "scandals" going back to the beginning of his political career.
The Times, not surprisingly, dusts off McCain's connections to the "Keating Five" and the S & L crisis. And it discusses McCain's contacts with a lobbyist, who happens to be beautiful, blonde and female.
As the New York Daily News noted, the Times fails to make a direct allegation; it just gives lots of steamy innuendo about something that may or may not have happened nearly a decade ago.
The bar of proof gets raised when we're in the late innings of a presidential primary and your subject is closing in on his party's nomination. You either have the goods, or you don't. And if you don't, fairness and the professional requirements say you don't publish. The consequences deserve no less.
The Times' treatment of McCain is way slimier than any of its insuations against McCain. And coming after its endorsement, it's hypocritical. After all, McCain's ties to the lobbyest -- which appear to be purely professional --were disclosed years ago.
This attempt to manipulate first the Republican primary and now the general election is why circulation of the "Paper of Record" is plummeting. At some point, the Times lost sight of its slogan: "All the news that's fit to print." Without the guts to make a direct allegation against McCain --let alone the proof -- the Times has fallen to the standard of the National Enquirer.
In the meantime, McCain needs to address the unstated allegations of the hit piece forthrightly and quickly.
Update: The New Republic's coverage of the Times coverage makes clear that the Times sat on the story for three months. That is, the Times knew of the story before it endorsed McCain and did not consider it an impediment to backing him. In addition the Times waited to release the story until after McCain was assured of getting the nomination.
Update: At McCain's press conference, held earlier today, he flatly denied the Times' charges. According to the Associated Press:
John McCain says a report by The New York Times suggesting an inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist is "not true" and he denied a romantic relationship with her. "It's not true," McCain said as his wife, Cindy, stood alongside him during a news conference.
The Arizona senator described the woman in question, lobbyist Vicki Iseman, as a friend.
McCain says he "will not allow a smear campaign" to distract from his presidential campaign.
. . . .
In a statement issued by his presidential campaign, McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said:
"It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.
"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."