Thursday, February 21, 2008


Follow-up thoughts on the McCain scandal story and the New York Times

One: Why did the New York Times endorse John McCain over Mitt Romney if it was working on “la M├ęsalliance McCain”?

I'm guessing that the NYT op-ed structure has Executive Editor Bill Keller on the editorial board for endorsement interviews, endorsements, etc. (I'm a newspaper editor, but never at a paper of nearly that size; so this is my semi-insider guesstimate.)

I would guess that Keller kept his cards close enough to the vest that nobody else on the editorial board knew what was up. Prolly nobody had read the WaPost story in December or seen any blog linkage to the Drudge piece at that time. And, as we see most often and most spectacularly at the WSJ, major dailies can sometimes have huge disconnects between newshole staff and op-ed writers.

Other points:

First, the importance of Schmuck Talk hiring Bob Bennett. You just don't do that unless some real shit is up. So, right-wingers who claim this is all smoke, if they know inside Washington, know there's plenty of fire. And, they know they’re lying about this being a tempest in a teapot.

Second, is the sex side unimportant, or a matter of “private lives”?

No. McCain is pandering to the Religious Right again, and has been from the start of this campaign, after years of mutual antagonism. Given that the RR often focuses on sexual issues, it’s perfectly legitimate to focus on this.

And, given McCain has a “track record” in this area, it’s even more legitimate.

Of course, that’s not to deny the importance of the impropriety of McCain’s attempted interference with the Federal Communications Commission.

In short, looking at McCain’s life, it looks like we have a mash-up of Keating Five redux and wife-cheating round two.

Third, just how castrated, or self-castrated, can Bill Keller be? Without some combination of the staff defections over the pace of the story, D.C. editor Dean Baquet pushing back to run the piece, the earlier Drudge leak, and TNR’s sniffing around the Times news staff this week, it’s quite likely this story would be continuing to molder in a bottom-drawer file, if not actually getting an official File 13.

Keller has, and not for the first time, damaged the Times’ news-gathering credibility.