The New York Times under Pinch Sulzberger has, for all practical purposes, become an arm of the Democratic National Committee. If Howard Dean, instead of Bill Keller and Andy Rosenthal, were formally given the assignment to select articles for the front page and columns for the opinion pages, I doubt you would know the difference.
In December, the Times chose not to run an un-sourced smear piece that first appeared in the Drudge Report, accusing John McCain of a relationship with a Telecom lobbyist, probably because McCain was going nowhere in the nominating process, so why attack him? But now that McCain looks like the GOP nominee, the Times has decided to play the National Enquirer role and get the trash out.
The story is nothing but innuendo as far as the lobbyist's alleged business and romantic relationship to McCain are concerned, and mainly raises old issues about the Keating 5 scandal from the early 80s. There is no evidence that McCain did any favors for the lobbyist during the time in question, and the romantic angle involves the lobbyist showing up at McCain campaign events, or to lobby him.
Well, duh, but that is the lobbyist's job. Also in case anybody has checked recently, quite a few female lobbyists in DC, are well-educated lawyers who are also attractive. Imagine! McCain met with one of them a few times.
As for dredging up the Keating 5 business (an S & L failure), Bob Bennett, who was the lawyer hired by the Senate's investigative Committee in that mess, and who is a lifelong Democrat who represented Bill Clinton on several occasions, told the Senate Committee that McCain's role with Keating was minor, and not worthy of Senate investigation, unlike the roles of the other 4 Democratic Senators who had done Keating's bidding.
The Senate, controlled by Democrats, was unwilling to investigate only Democrats, so for one of the few times in history, they rejected the advice of the lawyer they had hired to recommend how they should proceed. After a month of hearings, the Committee wound up treating McCain differently (let off far more lightly) than the other 4 Senators, who were dealt with far more harshly. All of this is known to the Times reporters and is in Bennett's book on the case, but this information does not appear in the Times story today.
For the Times, this is a three-fer: allege McCain plays ball with lobbyists, then and now, and is also an adulterer. None of the three charges is even close to being proven by the article today. It also appears that alleged adultery by a Republican, for which there is not a scintilla of evidence, is a bigger deal for the Times than any of Bill Clinton's bimbo eruptions, several of which were well-documented, or even admitted, but spiked on page 33 of the paper of record.
Funny thing, but this contretemps may help McCain with the right wing of his party. For today at least, he is on the same page with them in hatred of the New York Slimes. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, and others who have been lukewarm to McCain at best, came roaring to his defense last night and today.
One story making the rounds is that the Times acted when it did, because it was afraid the New Republic was going to run a story on how the Times had sat on the story. This is an old trick -- force the hand of the paper with the story, by writing an article about the debate over publishing the story. The New Republic, once a very respectable center-left journal, has under Franklin Foer's miserably misguided leadership, veered sharply left. Take away Marty Peretz and Leon Wieseltier, and the magazine is now a pale imitation of the Nation.
McCain's response (all of this was provided to the New York Times before their story was released,and did not appear in their story, of course):