'Clinton Rules' to McCain
To the connoisseur of political farce, few events have been more entertaining
than the grave and serious New York Times hinting that Sen. John McCain,
presumptive GOP presidential nominee may have enjoyed "a romantic relationship"
with a blonde lobbyist thirty years his junior.
There was folly everywhere. First, New York Times
editors who pretended not to understand the effects of yelling "SEX!" in
a crowded political campaign.
"If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an affair with
a lobbyist," editor Bill Keller told his newspaper's ombudsman "we'd have
owed readers more compelling evidence But that was not the point of the
story. The point of the story was that he behaved in such a way that his
close aides felt the relationship constituted reckless behavior and feared
it would ruin his career."
Never mind that the article's lead described how anonymous McCain aides,
"convinced the relationship [with lobbyist Vicki Iseman] had become romantic
intervened to protect the candidate from himself - instructing staff members
to block the woman's access, privately warning her away and repeatedly
Translation: office gossip.
Then there was McCain himself. At a press conference, the "straight-talking
maverick" indignantly denied the newspaper's strongest evidence, two letters
he'd written to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of one
of Iseman's clients, Paxson Communications, regarding a regulatory ruling.
The FCC's chairman had depicted the sharply-worded letters as "highly unusual."
A routine staff matter, McCain insisted. Campaign officials e-mailed a
flat denial to reporters: "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde &
Fay [i.e. Iseman] personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the
FCC." Apparently, not even the time the Senator and the lobbyist flew to
Miami together on Paxson's corporate jet for a fundraiser.
Oops! Within 24 hours, Newsweek unearthed a 2002 sworn deposition in which
McCain described meeting broadcast mogul Lowell "Bud" Paxson about the
FCC question. The Washington Post interviewed Paxson himself. "Was Vicki
there? Probably," he said. "The woman was a professional. She was good.
She could get us meetings."
Also in the deposition, McCain manfully confessed to the appearance of
corruption. "Absolutely," he said "And when I took a thousand dollars or
any other hard-money contribution from anybody who does business before
the Congress of the United States, then that allegation is justified as
well. Because the taint affects all of us."
Actually, McCain accepted $20,000 from Paxson Communications for his "reform"
presidential candidacy that year, along with lots of rides on its corporate
jet and the platonic pleasures of Vicki Iseman's company. He describes
the lobbyist as his "good friend."
But then that's been McCain's pattern ever since his political career almost
came to an end during the "Keating Five" crooked S & L episode. "[S]ooner
or later," writes the inimitable Charles Pierce "someone's going to have
to break down this pattern he has of doing things completely contrary to
what he's supposed to be about, apologizing for it, and then getting double-credit
for the apology while the original offense goes straight down the old memory
But not this time, because as Times editors ought to have realized, any
attempt to apply what this column has long-described as the "Clinton rules"
to any Republican, much less a Republican popular with reporters, whom
the personable McCain treats as members of his campaign entourage, was
doomed to fail. According to the Clinton rules, which also applied to Al
Gore, John Edwards, and may yet affect Barack Obama, allegations are treated
as facts, sometimes even after they're proven false. (Google "Gore, inventing
the Internet" for a classic example.)
Over on the left, influential blogger Josh Marshall wanted to believe that
with all the horse manure, the Times would eventually produce a pony. He
doubted editors "would have put their chin so far out on this story if
they didn't know a lot more than they felt they could put in the article,
at least on the first go." Evidently, he's forgotten the extended Whitewater
hoax, the Wen Ho Lee saga, and all those front-page Times exclusives about
Saddam Hussein's WMDs.
Indeed, far from being embarrassed, McCain's emerged as a wronged hero
to conservative talk radio hosts desperate to climb back aboard the Straight
Talk Express. You really thought Limbaugh was going to sit the election
out? According to them, the same "left-wing" New York Times that endorsed
McCain in the New York primaries is now out to destroy him.
Also to the slap-happy team on MSNBC's "Hardball." Back in 2006, when the
Times ran a front page story linking Bill Clinton through "the gossip pages"
to a pretty Canadian politician he'd been photographed with, host Chris
Matthews loved it. Giving McCain equivalent treatment, however, was deeply
The moral's simple: unverifiable gossip doesn't belong in newspapers, period.
Alas, that particular pony's long vanished from the barn.
Back to Bartcop.com
to Bart | Discuss
it on The BartCop Forum | Comment
on it at the BartBlog