A More Interesting Story Than the Story Behind the Story

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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. 

NEXT: Some Businesses Are Inherently Public, Says Washington State Supreme Court

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  1. So instead of a sex scandal its going to be a boring, inside-the-beltway lobbying scandal most of America won’t understand?

  2. Good thing McCain got the money out of politics back in 2002…

  3. It’s probably true that most of America won’t understand an “inside the beltway lobbying scandal.”

    But if there was any sliver of hope that they would be able to understand, it was flushed down the drain with the sexual innuendo the article contained.

    All they have is that it appeared, to a few disgruntled staffers, that there might be a romantic relationship with McCain and the lobbyist. But they’ve both denied it, so that’s a dead end.

    Now the story is tainted. It will be dismissed as overzealous liberal gotcha games, even if there is a part of the story with real substance.

    It probably shouldn’t be this way, but it is.

    The hasty sexual implications in the article, if there are as easily dismissed as they seem to be, will mask any real issue with McCain and this particular lobbyist.

    A discredited story, that’s all people will be able to remember.

    Good job, NYT!

  4. No hypocrisy here; I’m sure McCain did nothing to Ms. Iseman that he isn’t prepared to do to the country as well.

  5. Matt, where’s the obligatory shill for your book, McCain: The Myth of a Maverick?

    😉

  6. J sub D — I rely on the army of Davids!

  7. A belief in one’s own rectitude, even if deserved, creates a dangerous blind spot in one’s view of one’s own conduct. Since you know/think you won’t doing anything wrong, you never stop to think how your actions look to others. You may even break though rules through accident by simply pushing the envelope to far one to many times out sheer overconfidence.

    All politicians are narcissistic and arrogant to an unusual degree but I have always felt that McCain and the Clintons both exhibit a to firm belief in their own rectitude. They all seem surprised and offended when anyone questions their motives.

    I suspect Obama will exhibit the same trait when he leaves the hothouse.

  8. “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. […]”

    So they sent some blond to screw him in order to get a bill passed and McCain took the bate but ultimately the bill was never passed anyway? Yeah, that is really going to sink McCain.

    McCain benefits in some ways from the low opinion people have for politicians. Everyone knows and expects politicians to sell out to lobbiest and indeed every member of Congress has at some point or another. No one cares. There is just nothing particularly compelling or unique about this story to grab people’s attention or turn them against McCain, Matt Welch’s wishful thinking aside.

  9. The Times story could have been like the Post version of the story (linked in the previous Reason article), which merely focuses on “McCain voted in ways beneficial to the clients of a lobbyist who campaign staff thought was too close to McCain”. That’s a perfectly valid story, although a fairly weak one. But, nooo, they had to add the sex angle to it and fuck it all up. Now, if they had actual proof that there was an affair, that would be much different, but it seems like all they had was “some of the campaign staff wondered if there was an affair”, which barely rises to the level of a rumor, and therefore makes the entire piece look ridiculous.

  10. Most boring scandal ever. Senator in DC does favors for lobbyists! Shocking!

  11. According to her Bio, she went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Any one from Western Pa. (like myself) knows that all the IUP chicks are hoes.

    I left a beer bong there, somewhere.

  12. There’s only one Times, and that’s in London. That paper in New York is now past “being in a decline”.

    Even their crosswords have gone downhill since Maleska passed away.

  13. Can we just make a generic McCain story for the remainder of election season? Something along the lines of:

    John McCain continues to be a hypocritical, lying douchebag. He ably demonstrates that this week by .

    Then we could all save a lot of time until something new comes along.

  14. Aside from what, if anything, McCain actually accomplished for this crew, doesn’t the story also indicate that he and his staff basically self-policed when it got out of hand?

  15. No hypocrisy here; I’m sure McCain did nothing to Ms. Iseman that he isn’t prepared to do to the country as well.

    Hopefully that means something along the lines of: “treated her with respect while developing a mutually beneficial relationship”

  16. What we need are more lobbyists that are only willing to sleep with politicians that work to enhance freedom. That would probably do more for liberty than the Libertarian party ever has. And Ron Paul would get laid all the time.

  17. Hopefully that means something along the lines of: “treated her with respect while developing a mutually beneficial relationship”

    Um, yeah.

  18. What we need are more lobbyists that are only willing to sleep with politicians that work to enhance freedom.

    You first, Marcvs.

  19. Wow, a “two-year reprieve”, huh? On the 10-point scale of Lobbyist Influence and Political Hypocrisy I’d put that at about a 1.

  20. Cesar | February 21, 2008, 1:32pm | #

    So instead of a sex scandal its going to be a boring, inside-the-beltway lobbying scandal most of America won’t understand

    In United States, corrupt senator fucks you!

  21. And what Jay J said.

    Exactly right, Mr. J.

  22. I think a McCain/Rice ticket might be a winner in the general election, as long as McCain keeps his hands to himself…

  23. Just let me say how indignant and shocked I am at the evidence that a United Senator may have done improper favors for lobLlaskdfjasldjf . . . oops, I snoozed off and my face fell into the keyboard.

  24. R C Dean,

    If it’s Alaska’s Governor, sign me up!

    http://www.google.com/search?q=sarah+palin

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