Burning Questions: McCain Edition

By now you’ve heard about the NY Timespiece on John McCain’s troublesome relationship with a female lobbyist

While we love to revel in hypocrisy exposed, it seems to us – and our Jossip colleagues – that the Times story isn’t so much a smear campaign as it is a political sketch gone horribly awry.

The piece – part of a larger series looking at the candidates and their occupational evolution – tried to paint McCain as a man who’s struggled to reconcile his political and personal interests. That said, the article had true human potential, but ended up getting sullied by sensationalism, reducing the subject (McCain) to an object. Obviously the New York Times‘ editorial team caught on to this skewing of the story.

How can we be so sure? Well, the story has been floating around since December and this comment from CNN’s Dana Bash:

I will just tell you what the McCain campaign says. What his advisers tell me is that they got a call from a reporter who worked for The New Republic magazine doing a story last week — we’re told — last week about internal turmoil inside The New York Times newsroom.

And, according — according to the McCain campaign, they were told by this New Republic reporter that there was squabbling inside The New York Times about whether or not to go with this story. In fact, one of the advisers I told you I spoke with, Charlie Black, he even said that he was told that The New York Times made an editorial decision twice not to run the story.

So, the real question in our mind isn’t whether McCain got down with a female lobbyist, but why the NY Times ran the story.

Executive editorial director Bill Keller claims there’s no back room machinations:

On the timing, our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready. ‘Ready’ means the facts have been nailed down to our satisfaction, the subjects have all been given a full and fair chance to respond, and the reporting has been written up with all the proper context and caveats. This story was no exception. It was a long time in the works. It reached my desk late Tuesday afternoon. After a final edit and a routine check by our lawyers, we published it.

You sure, did, Keller, and now McCain’s got you in his sights.

Oh, and in case you couldn’t guess, McCain’s denied having inappropriate contact with the lobbyist and denies the Times‘ claim adviser John Weaver discussed the matter with him during the 2000 campaign.

We can’t help but wonder whether this will dig into McCain’s already wobbly conservative base.