A More Interesting Story Than the Story Behind the Story


The New Republic has the story-behind-the-story on the New York Times' bizarrely worded McCain article, which clearly isn't the paper's finest hour. TNR excerpt:

What happened? The publication of the article capped three months of intense internal deliberations at the Times over whether to publish the negative piece and its most explosive charge about the affair. It pitted the reporters investigating the story, who believed they had nailed it, against executive editor Bill Keller, who believed they hadn't. It likely cost the paper one investigative reporter, who decided to leave in frustration. And the Times ended up publishing a piece in which the institutional tensions about just what the story should be are palpable.

Gratuitous arrogance from defensive NYT editor Dean Baquet:

"We published the story when it was ready which is what we always do," Baquet told TNR this morning. He added: "Nothing forced our hand. Nothing pushed us to move faster other than our own natural desire that we wanted to get a story in the paper that met all of our standards."

Meanwhile, for some actual substance looking into McCain's mutually beneficial relationship with Vicki Iseman's client Paxson Communications (a topic of controversy back in January 2000 raised first by the Boston Globe), look no further than telecom journalist and sometime reason contributor Drew Clark. An excerpt, though I recommend reading the whole thing:

The Times does not report about a more recent—and potentially more dramatic—action by McCain on behalf of Paxson.

After a brief period of Democratic dominance, McCain returned to become chairman of the [Senate Commerce] committee in 2003 and 2004. During that period, he took crucial legislative action that saved Paxson Communications from a bill that would have, in the words of CEO Lowell "Bud" Paxson, finally ruined his company.

Even more ironically, McCain took this action for Paxson in spite of his long-standing position that television broadcasters had inappropriately used the transition to digital television (DTV) to benefit themselves financially at the expense of the American public.

McCain initially supported legislation that would have forced Paxson and handful of broadcasters—but not the great bulk of television stations—off the air by December 31, 2006. Bud Paxson himself personally testified about this bill with "fear and trepidation" at a hearing on September 8, 2004.

Two weeks later, McCain had reversed himself. He now supported legislation that would grant two-year reprieve for Paxson—and instead force all broadcasters to stop transmitting analog television by December 31, 2008. Paxson and his lobbyists, including Iseman, were working at this time for just such a change.

The Times reports none of this more recent history of McCain's actions benefitting Paxson Communications, which renamed itself Ion Media Networks.

McCain later fought hard to push the digital television transition date back in time, citing the needs of public safety officials. Those efforts were not successful. […]

Indeed, the relationship between the company and McCain has been strong.

According to information compiled by the Center for Public Integrity's "Well Connected" Project on Telecommunications and Media, John McCain is the single largest recipient of campaign contribution by Ion Media Networks and its predecessor, Paxson Communications.

Whole thing here. Unfortunately for McCain, the flipside of being an Honorable Crusader is a huge soft underbelly of potential hypocrisy. Since reporters are only beginning to sniff around the myth, it could be a long couple of weeks. And he better be telling the truth that none of his staffers or aides confronted him about Iseman, because if the sources who told that to both the NYT and the more-responsible Washington Post decide to go on the record, that will become uncomfortable.