NY Times "McCain Scandal" Fizzles Out In Leftwing Blogosphere
The big story today is that this so-called exposé has completely fizzled out even in the Leftwing blogosphere. I checked out DUmmieland and the KOmmieland this morning and there is almost NO mention of the Times story. Yes, they have posts blasting John McCain but for other reasons. How pathetic is a "news" story when even the hard core leftists feel it has no substance? Another reliable liberal who also blasted the New York Times was Mike Barnicle who just now appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Yes, the chickens are coming home to roost for the New York Times. Already we one of the authors of the McCain hit piece, Marilyn W. Thompson, has been exposed as ethically challenged as you can see in this terrific NewsBusters STORY. Apparently Ms Thompson, while editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader in Kentucky, was taking money from a leftwing group to fund a hit piece on Senator Mitch McConnell. And this is the person that the Times chose as one of the reporters of the McCain hit piece.
Yes, a career will be severly affected by the Times story but it won't be McCain's. This could well be the scandal that forces the supremely unqualified Pinch Sulzerberger to finally exit stage Left. So let us now join Jay Rosen and the other HUffies as they rake the New York Times over the coals in outraged red while the commentary of your humble correspondent, wondering if Bill Keller will be following Pinch out the exit door, is in the [brackets]:
For the New York Times, as Well, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Risks
[Job risks for Pinch Sulzberger and Bill Keller. Hee! Hee!]
A few riddles, questions and observations about the story that everyone--including John McCain--is talking about this morning: For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk in the New York Times...
[According to Mike Barnicle on Today's Morning Joe show, this story isn't even being discussed in liberal Boston. DUmmies and KOmmies are also mostly ignoring it.]
Lots of people will be asking why now? but my first question upon reading the story was different: why endorse? The New York Times endorsed McCain for the Republican nomination on Jan. 25, when it was clearly working on this story and had the basic facts in hand. The endorsement does not mention his image for rectitude, which today's story assaults, but still, it's an endorsement, an institutional seal of approval. If the facts in today's article were not enough to make the Times re-think its endorsement, then why were they good enough for the front page of the paper, eight years after the events in question?
[Simple. The Times built up the Republican candidate it wanted knowing they possibly had the goods to tear him down later.]
UPDATE: Two people who work for the New York Times wrote to me with the same complaint: why was I raising questions about the editorial page's endorsement of John McCain on Jan. 25 when I know--or should as a J-professor know--that the newsroom and the editorial page operate independently of each other and do not coordinate? My answer: there's one person who would have known about the paper's struggles with McCain and his lawyers over today's story, and who read and approved the paper's endorsements-- or should have. That is Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher. And so to ask, "How does the Times endorse McCain with a story like that looming, if it believes in the story?" is to ask, at a minimum, what Arthur thought he was doing. But it's more than that. Staffers who live the logic of their internal organization and its brilliant divides sometimes fail to see what the institution as a whole is saying. The Times endorsed a man it had reason to believe would face front page scrutiny like we saw today from the news section of the Times. It is not unreasonable to ask why. The two sides don't need to coordinate if both read Drudge.
[Pinch could claim that he doesn't think about what he is doing. Perhaps he will claim to be a completely clueless idiot. At least that pathetic excuse will have some credibility.]
Lots of people will be asking: did the Times have the goods, enough facts to even run this story? (National Review's Rich Lowry says no, and many others will be saying the same thing today.) I notice that the Washington Post essentially ran the same story today, minus the innuendo about an affair. It leads with the strongest fact to emerge from the Times account: that former McCain aide John Weaver had met with the women in question to ask her to stay away, a meeting--and an agenda--that Weaver confirmed to the Times and the Post. If there's any "hard" news in these accounts to support the appearance of ethical taint, that is it. But the Post left out the, "Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened..." part, which makes the Times story far more explosive, and more of an event within the 08 campaign. Which makes me wonder why the Times didn't run a G-rated version scrupulously free of tabloid stuff.
[Because Pinch likes the lurid stuff even if there are no facts to back it up.]
According to the McCain camp, the "why now?" question is answered by the inquiries a reporter for The New Republic has made about infighting at the New York Times over this story. The New Republic says its story, by Gabriel Sherman, will be out later today. Sherman is a former reporter for the New York Observer who has shown he has sources inside the paper during two earlier episodes: the Judy Miller agonistes and James Risen's wiretapping story, where the "why now?" question was extremely important, since it involved the 2004 election. Therefore we will soon know a lot more about the struggles over this story, which must have been intense. (Read it yourself: Sherman's article is now up.)
[Why now? Well, the NY Times wanted to wait until after McCain was nominated to publish this non-story but exposure by the New Republic forced its hand.]
On the question of "the goods," when I read the story I expected... more. Any report alleging a damaging affair by a current presidential candidate needs to be air tight and locked down, especially when the events in it date from two election cycles ago. But for this purpose the Times has only anonymous sources; that makes me nervous. While any story like this says to readers, "trust us, we're the New York Times," this one puts the Times reputation more completely on the line because there is virtually nothing else for us to trust than the rectitude of the people running the paper. For, "Convinced the relationship had become romantic..." there is nothing we can check, no one we can ask, no digging we can do. That is why Pat Buchanan on MSNBC this morning was predicting a "war to the death between the New York Times and John McCain." But watch for Clark Hoyt's next ombudsman column. I would not be surprised at all if he comes out with a verdict esssentially saying: you didn't have it.
[To quote Gertrude Stein, "There's no there there." This could be said both about this Times story and Pinch Sulzberger's brain.]
For lovers of culture war--and I am not one--there is almost nothing better than a story like this. The cultural right will go with its ultra-simplified story line: the liberal media wants Barack Obama to win and this is how it manifests. In a contest of strength, I think the discomfort over McCain as a conservative and candidate is weaker on the right than the resentment at an institution like the New York Times, and the mobilizing power of "liberal media intervenes in the election on behalf of its guy" is too great to resist.
[The best part of this story is that it has a good chance to cause the downfall of Pinch Sulzberger and Bill Keller.]
Thus, the Politico's report: Asked about the impact that the allegation of adultery would have among social conservative activists, some of whom still aren't entirely sold on McCain, Black said they would see it as "the New York Times spreading rumors and gossip. We're going to war with the New York Times, so they'll probably like it."
[War on the New York Times is FUn to watch!]
For the New York Times, self-confidence on ethics poses its own risks, as well. From the looks of it, the paper is going to have to fight for its story--and its ethics--in the court of public opinion, but this is not something the Times is ever comfortable doing. It vastly prefers "the story speaks for itself." (Which Bill Keller just said in a statement.) I don't think that will be good enough in this case because the story speaks so thinly for itself, and because the paper has tried--without much success, I would add--to cut down on the use of anonymous sources, recognizing how much they put at risk. (From a 2004 internal report, "Can we otherwise squeeze more anonymous sources out of our pages? Can we make our attributions (even the anonymous ones) less murky? Are there some stories we can afford to skip if they are not attributable to people with names?")
[Jayson Blair can defend this story. And now to read the reactions from the other HUffies...]
I am an ARDENT Democrat. At first I thought John McCain's response was weak. This story now is beginning to remind me of the Dan Rather story, big on splash with spurious, enigmatic possibly problematic evidence. The biggest question for the Times regarding its explosive story on John McCain's possible romantic link to the telecommunications lobbyist surrounds the evidence. This is not just another article it is about the major Republican contender for the presidency and a contender who has staked his reputation on his ethical stances. NYT at first I thought would never write an article like that without having near 100% proof and accuracy with which it could back up what it states. However, now I think substance is missing from the NYT article. My question is DOES IT HAVE THE EVIDENCE I.E. MORE EVIDENCE than it has given in its article to support what it writes? This reader must be absolutely assured of the article's veracity on a huge issue such as this and if so this reader would like to know what it is. So far its mere hearsay without much support. Who has said what to whom and what hard evidence does the NYT have to back up the allegations? It's that simple. Where's the beef for such an important story!
[Even an ARDENT Democrat thinks this story is mostly bare bones and no beef.]
The "New York Times" has less authenticity than a suburban weekly. A parochial yet apparently useful dispenser of the party (of wealth) line. It has no pretense of persuasion of anything beyond what it's political/financial backers see fit. Only people who care what's in the "Times" care what's in the "Times". And that is some severe insulation. Even the crossword puzzles are weak.
[But they are still good on their food recipes. Oh, and this story is a recipe for disaster for poor Pinch.]
Why didn't they release the story in November-December when the Republican nomination was up for grabs? Why endorse McCain, and then do a hit piece after he gets the nomination? This really looks like the New York Times is manipulating the timing of news to change the outcome of elections.
[You don't say!]
As a former newspaper reporter, I can say with certainty they keep the editorial writers hidden away from the reporters, lest the reporters with their muddy shoes and battle fatigue attack the editorialists as they sit on their plush posteriors, eating free pizza and donuts.
Mit Romney shoud sue the New York Times for a dishonest endorsement which unfairly diminished his and other Republican candidates' campaigns still active in the race?
[The NY Times always endorses the Republican it thinks easiest to defeat.]
Aye, they are. The Old Gray Lady has become the Old Gray Mare. No wonder that the NYT has been reducing its workforce by thousands, and their circulation has diminished dramatically.
[Hopefully Pinch Sulzberger and Bill Keller will be among those thousands being laid off.]
The Times should be careful of Rovian traps.
[Ah yes! When all else fails, blame Karl Rove.]
Only way the NYTs can recover from this is if they have more evidence.
[That evidence will be delivered by the Great Pumpkin.]