Look no further than this week's New York Times story on John McCain's cozy relationship with lobbyists.
Todd Gitlin summarizes the mess, which appeared on the front page of the NY Times:
what was it about? (1) Intimations of an Iseman affair, or the "appearance" of an affair, that his aides tried to scotch? (2) McCain's entanglements with lobbyists who cared a good deal about what he did as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee? Uncertain which way to turn, having not much of a story about (1) and (on the strength of the evidence they published) no smoking gun about (2), they squared the potato and ran with the hodgepodge.
Matthew Yglesias summarizes the story the country needs to have told, the Real Story:
Basically, in exchange for money and freebies, McCain sought to intervene in a federal regulatory process in favor of a company that had provided him with tens of thousands of dollars in cash and services. He could try to plead naiveté, but in light of the hot water he got into with the Keating Five affair, which had the exactly same structure, he clearly knew what he was doing and knew that it was wrong. Now whether or not some guy gets to buy some TV station in Pittsburgh or not isn't a big deal as such, but it's an example of how dubious McCain's "straight talk" persona is. What's more, I think we can all agree that the subversion of the basic functioning of the federal government (see, e.g., US Attorneys scandal, FEMA, etc.) has been a major problem during the Bush years and we see here that McCain takes a Bush-like attitude to the integrity of these processes.
But, of course, it is the sexual innuendo, mostly unfounded (in the story as reported at least), which got the story on the front page of the New York Times.
Only after McCain had secured the Republican nomination, of course. Reportedly, the story was largely finished in December, but had to wait . . . for no particular reason.
And, the take-away from the Editor of Newsweek?
Jon Meacham: "Let us be honest: without the allegations about sex, there was no Times story. (McCain's FCC efforts and links to the communications company had been previously reported.) No suggestion of sex, no front page; no suggestion of sex, no right-wing rally to McCain's side against the Times. It is, as Margaret Thatcher used to say, a funny old world."
Funny old world, indeed. By, all means let's be honest. McCain as a corrupt liar -- well, that's all been reported, even it was only on Page 37. Boring. McCain has a penis -- that's news!
McCain's whole career is founded on the decision to leave his wife, the mother of his children, for a much younger, more beautiful woman, who just happened to be heir to a substantial fortune. But, that's old news, too.
The sex angle has opened the door to questions about McCain's ethics, character and participation in a corrupt system. But, look at how bizarre are the standards of Bill Keller, N.Y. Times editor, or Jon Meacham, Newsweek editor, and weep.
It should be noted, in passing, that this story was not a Democratic attack on McCain. Left blogosphere comment has centered on just how bad the N.Y. Times is. If anything, this story from the Grey Lady progenitor of Whitewater and WMD in Iraq, is further evidence that the Republican Right and the Complacent Muddled Middle really do not want to elect a Republican President in this round.