Carol Platt Liebau: Dealing from the Bottom of the Deck

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dealing from the Bottom of the Deck

It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that the MSM would turn on McCain. It didn't take a genius to understand that the Keating Five scandal would return, just as it's pretty likely that the terms "temperament" and "gender gap" are going to become staples of press coverage (all of which I predicted here).

What is surprising, however, is how quickly The New York Times has turned on McCain, and how ugly it's become. What the Times has done is despicable.

This is the "Seinfeld" of news articles -- a report about nothing. Its purported point? That because of his sponsorship of ethics laws, John McCain himself must be purer than Caesar's wife. But the real agenda behind the story is twofold: To acquaint a new generation with Keating Five, and even more damaging, to report gossip that John McCain allegedly had an affair.

First, The Times is treating John McCain, this woman, and their families unfairly. Note that the woman named as the supposed involvement denies anything improper, as does the senator. So on what basis does the Times run with the story, which will tarnish both reputations? Two unnamed sources have asserted that McCain admitted to something "imrproper" (whatever that means). That sounds like something a low-grade tabloid would do. It's pretty sleazy.

No doubt we're supposed to trust the Times that the sources are reliable and free of any conflicts of interest. Ha. Times and trust just don't go together when it comes to politics. Aren't they the ones who ran this story about Nancy Reagan's affair with Frank Sinatra, based again on unnamed sources, that time Kitty Kelley's?

As a side note, some of the details don't even make sense. If something improper happened, as the Times suggests in reporting the suspicions of its unnamed sources, why was John Weaver meeting with woman at Union Station and asking her to stay away from the senator? The report clearly indicates that, if there was an affair, it wasn't the Clinton-style "wham bam" kind -- McCain and this woman clearly knew each other well. So why would a staffer be breaking it off with her, instead of the senator himself? McCain and his staff would have realized, had he behaved improperly, that it was important that he and the woman part on good terms.

In any case, had The Times followed a policy to report any presidential dalliance about which two unnamed staffers were willing to speculate, they'd have had no time to cover anything else during the Clinton years. Amazing how standards change.

Second, the Times has poorly served the American people, or really, the Republican Party -- not that it cares. Its editors clearly have had this story in the works for some time, and they had to have known it would be of great interest to the GOP voters who were trying to decide, at the end, between Romney and McCain. But because McCain was the paper's favorite Republican, it held off until there was no danger of a more conservative contender winning the nomination.

Now, with the Democrats engaged in Obama-Clinton internecine warfare, The Times doubtless thought it unwise to let the GOP coalesce around McCain too easily.

Finally, it's an example of how eight years of Bill Clinton has degraded the political culture. Pre-Clinton, a paper would have thought a little harder about reporting this kind of anonymously sourced, denied-by-all-named-parties type story. But the fact that, between 1993 and 2001, these stories turned out to be both numerous and true, has eroded what is a normal, natural and healthy caution on the part of the media to sling around damaging accusations with abandon.

Especially where, as here, there's just no real story to report. Unnamed sources allege McCain behaved improperly with lobbyist. Both deny it. One doesn't have to be a big McCain fan to ask: Where's the beef?

4 Comments:

Blogger Mr. Twister said...

Carol asks, One doesn't have to be a big McCain fan to ask: Where's the beef?

The beef (nice 80s reference by the by) is related to the behavior that brought about the Keating five scandal, Carol. The improprieties John McCain was guilty of in the Keating five case was trying to get regulators to treat Charles Keating specially, it appears this continued for Ms. Iseman's clients.

Senator McCain later repented from such behavior. Describing his conversion from the dark side in his autobiography as Learning from my unhappy experience [with the Keating Five], I have refrained from ever intervening in the regulatory decisions of the federal government if such intervention could be construed, rightly or wrongly, as done solely or primarily for the benefit of a major financial supporter of my campaigns.

Now, what did John McCain do for Ms. Iseman? He wrote letters to the FCC trying interfering with regulatory decisions on behalf of one of Ms. Iseman's clients. The paragraph about this from the Times article reads, Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.

It is corruption and hypocrisy, Carol, that are the issue. Extending your beef analogy, however, the salacious details are merely the sizzle that sells the steak. We learned this from the Republicans in the late 90s.

[h/t to smintheus at the Great Orange Satan]

5:27 AM  
Blogger Nano said...

Well to me what is part interesting about this issue is the whole back and forth discussion of this article between the McCain camp and the NYT occurred BEFORE the NYT chose to endorse McCain for President.

The post over at Politico with McCain's written response and the press conference this morning both put this in the area of a political hatchet job.

Now it's a matter of figuring out just who was behind it.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Cliff said...

Mr. Twister said..."It is corruption and hypocrisy, Carol, that are the issue. Extending your beef analogy, however, the salacious details are merely the sizzle that sells the steak. We learned this from the Republicans in the late 90s."

And the dems were as clean as snow bunnies. Get out!

Gee, I wish I could be as righteous as many on your side of the isle claim to be! But oh well...

1:14 PM  
Blogger Mr. Twister said...

Cliff pens, Gee, I wish I could be as righteous as many on your side of the isle claim to be!

Just a quick note...it's side of the "aisle" not side of the "isle."

As far as those on left go, I was unaware that the Democrats sold themselves repeatedly as the party of family values. They are, however, the party whose candidate for President will still be on his/her original spouse.

3:41 PM  

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