Friday, February 22, 2008
Nasty Little Slap
In a Politico piece this morning, Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen) take a little swipe at the “commentators on the right” in reference to the McCain/New York Times story. Their contention seems to be that McCain killed the potential damage from the NYT piece by “sophisticated 24-hour counterattack” against the story and was aided by right leaning journalists, bloggers, radio personalities (who all, I suppose, make up the commentariat of the right) and their aversion to all things Gray Lady.
While I do tend to view much of what comes out of the NYT with a little more cynicism than many newspapers, it’s just as true that I went to read the story worried heavily about the damage that it would cause. I went assuming that it would be a well-researched, well-written, and campaign-derailing article; else why was it published in the Times?
See, my actually assumption was that there would be some substance to the story and some accusations made. There weren’t. It was very simply one of the worst pieces of investigative journalism that I’ve read from the Times--although it would have been a high water mark for something like Denver’s Westword. Apparently, that isn’t how Martin and Allen see things.
If that article had contained anything reliable, anything substantial, I think that the conservative call would not have been to circle the wagons; the call would have been to get McCain to bow out and figure out how to get Romney back in the game. Conservatives aren’t as suicidal as recent buzz words might indicate, and what saved McCain from an already skeptical base wasn’t a rallying instinct, but a story that never should have run. Outside of the insinuation that McCain was cheating on his wife, there wasn’t much new in the story--with the oldest allegations dating back to the Keating 5 scandal. Honestly, people have already made up their minds on these things and it was the sex angle that was being used to lead and sell the story.
Martin and Allen, though, seemed to have seen more substance in the story than most people, suggesting that if the Times had been more aggressive in its defense, people might have been persuaded that there was more to the story than McCain’s denials of wrongdoing.
What debate? The Times ran a story that was undeniably inflammatory in purpose, but never got around to making any real allegations. It never said that McCain did anything inappropriate. It said that McCain might have appeared to do something inappropriate, but we’re really not sure and there’s no real evidence (at least none on offer in the article) to support full blown allegations.
There was no debate to frame: without an accusation to defend, without named sources to rely on, without a smoking gun (or a stained blue dress), there was only McCain saying, “I didn’t do anything” and journalists saying “what was this story about?”
Honestly, if you look at some of the staff of NRO, I would imagine that there were a few writers who would have been damned near giddy to jump on a McCain-killing story.
But even if you’re skeptical of the right wing reaction, other outlets said essentially the same thing. John Friedman at Marketwatch, who I wouldn’t categorize as one of the “commentators on the right” had this to say in his article:
Absolutely right, and I think quite a few publications of less stature than the Times would have passed on that article. The Boston Globe, for example, chose not to run its parent paper’s story in favor of running the WaPo’s stripped down version which “focused almost exclusively on the pervasive presence of lobbyists in McCain’s campaign.”
The Huffington Post, no friend of the right, had a story by Jay Rosen that posed its own questions and concerns:
For a good overview of the questions raised--by the left and by the right--over the Times article, check out Howard Kurtz’s WaPo piece.
The New York Times shouldn’t have run unsubstantiated gossip--and that is, in the final analysis, what they did with reference to the insinuation that McCain had a sexual relationship with Iseman. It isn’t blind partisanship to suggest that this was a piece unworthy of the Times or any other reputable news outlet, and the Politico’s suggestion to the contrary is offensive. My opinion on the piece wasn’t framed by the McCain machine--or by anything other than seeing the link on Drudge--it was framed by reading the actual article and finding myself baffled by its lack of substance. I doubt that I’m alone in that.
Page 1 of 1 pages
© 2005 by the authors of ResurrectionSong. All rights reserved.
Powered by ExpressionEngine