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Seattle editor on NYT McCain story: "That's pretty thin beer"

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By Michelle Malkin  •  February 22, 2008 09:58 AM

The editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a piece explaining why his paper didn’t run the NYTimes’ paper-thin, recycled hash on John McCain’s alleged affair with a lobbyist:

I chose not to run the New York Times story on John McCain in Thursday’s P-I, even though it was available to us on the New York Times News Service. I thought I’d take a shot at explaining why.

To me, the story had serious flaws. It did not convincingly make the case that McCain either had an affair with a lobbyist, or was improperly influenced by her. It used a raft of unnamed sources to assert that members of McCain’s campaign staff — not this campaign but his campaign eight years ago — were concerned about the amount of time McCain was spending with the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. They were worried about the appearance of a close bond between the two of them.

Then it went even further back, re-establishing the difficulties McCain had with his close association to savings-and-loan criminal Charles Keating. It didn’t get back to the thing that (of course) the rest of the media immediately pounced on — McCain, Iseman and the nature of their relationship — until very deep in the story. And when the story did get back there, it didn’t do so with anything approaching convincing material.

A very good editor I happen to work for, P-I Editor and Publisher Roger Oglesby, said today that the story read like a candidate profile to him, not an investigative story, and I think that’s true. A candidate profile based on a lot of old anecdotes…

…Admitting that Keller was in a better position to vet the sourcing and facts than I am as, basically, a reader, let’s assume that every source is solid and every fact attributed in the story to an anonymous source is true. You’re still dealing with a possible appearance of impropriety, eight years ago, that is certainly unproven and probably unprovable.
Where is the solid evidence of this lobbyist improperly influencing (or bedding) McCain? I didn’t see it in the half-dozen times I read the story. In paragraphs fifty-eight through sixty-one of the sixty-five-paragraph story, the Times points out two matters in which McCain took actions favorable to the lobbyist’s clients — that were also clearly consistent with his previously stated positions.

That’s pretty thin beer.

The reactions in the P-I comment section are interesting, too. A sample:

Posted by Kristen at 2/21/08 6:31 p.m.

While I have my reservations on when the NYTimes decided to break the story, I do find it funny that you are claiming the high road on the subject, even though you posted McCain’s response and your running Horsey’s cartoon on the subject.

***

Posted by whidbeywise at 2/21/08 6:49 p.m.

Since you mentioned Clinton and McGreevey as “admitted” philanderers, you should probably bring up McCains philandering. He cheated on his first wife and dumped her for his current wife. This doesn’t matter to me, but when you are the presumptive nominee of the “family values” and “sanctity of marriage” party, you should probably be squeeky clean. McCain is definitely not. Why is McCain so cozy with lobbyists? Just more of the same old stuff.

***

Posted by snesich at 2/21/08 7:50 p.m.

I think that too many people are making this “McCain vs. The New York Times” and that’s silly. But I can see why McCain’s camp wants people to see it that way.

I’m concerned with whether or not these allegations are true. I could care less if McCain had sex with a woman other than his wife. But I am troubled by the possibility that McCain was compromised by his personal relationship with this lobbyist.

Did McCain have an affair with this lobbyist? Who knows? Who cares? Did McCain use his position as a senator to benefit this lobbyist and her corporate clients? That’s the important question and it’s one that isn’t settled yet.

Most of McCain’s knee-jerk defenders seem to be outraged that this story was ever published. None of them seem to even acknowledge the possibility that McCain’s integrity and honesty may be a real issue. What will they do if these allegations are eventually proven?

***

Posted by unregistered user at 2/21/08 8:29 p.m.

“It did not convincingly make the case that McCain either had an affair with a lobbyist, or was improperly influenced by her.” Which was not the point of the story, so it probably only received a surface reading for consideration.

McCain’s poor judgement is the issue of the story. He did not listen to his staff’s advice about lobbyist. In politics, the appearance of a problematic issue is something some are clearly more sensitive to than others. McCain brushed off the concerns of others that this could look bad. It does. It may not be worse, but it passes this test : he does not listen to good advice. The reminders of the Keating Five are better done now than later as well. Just as Hillary Clinton’s past faux pas will always be just a google away, here is an event some may have forgotten that again underline the problem of McCain’s Judgement and Reasoning. He seems naive in both situations – each a decade apart. So he didn’t improve with age.

***

Posted by unregistered user at 2/21/08 11:00 p.m.

The real story today is the opinion from the head of the Federal Elections Commission — a Republican, no less — that McCain’s campaign might not be able to (legally) withdraw from the public financing system until the Republican Convention. McCain may try to ignore it, but he might risk criminal prosecution and fines if he exceeds the spending limits. This is a front page article for the Washington Post on Friday.

I agree with that last comment. Here’s the story the commenter is referring to in the WaPo this morning.

Savor the possibility of McCain being hoisted by his own campaign finance petard.

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