New York Times' McCain story was legit

Yesterday's controversial New York Times' story on John McCain remains a hot topic in journalism circles. It's predictable, particularly in the post-Jayson Blair age, that conservatives are using the story to unify and rail against the liberal bete noire of Times Square.

N4N's take is that the story was legitimate, particularly the look at how McCain's self-description as a reformer matches up against the reality. While Rudy Giuliani's shortcomings got a ton of attention before he dropped out, and Mitt Romney did enough flip-flopping to spell his own demise, we've seen relatively few deep looks at McCain and his record. In this respect, it's worth reminding voters that the Arizona senator was reprimanded for poor judgment as a member of the "Keating 5" in the 1980s.

[T]he concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to fly directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the impression of self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a decade ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of business executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman’s client. (Last year he voted to end the practice.)

Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to promote his personal battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later resigned as its chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the same kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including those from companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office.

“He is essentially an honorable person,” said William P. Cheshire, a friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. “But he can be imprudent.”

Mr. Cheshire added, “That imprudence or recklessness may be part of why he was not more astute about the risks he was running with this shady operator,” Charles Keating, whose ties to Mr. McCain and four other lawmakers tainted their reputations in the savings and loan debacle.

The perceptual problem for the Times is that, short of proof of an affair between McCain and Iseman, this story is inside baseball, beyond the concern of Joe and Jane Sixpack, and because of the credibility problems of the media, there's a ripe environment in which Fox and friends can rebrand this as "a smear" against the GOP frontrunner.

The GOP, of course, is already using this tactic to raise money:

Dear Ian,


The New York Times has proven once again that the liberal mainstream media will do whatever it takes to put Senator Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama in the White House.


From the beginning of Campaign 2008, liberal media pundits have fawned over the Democrat presidential candidates while ignoring their lack of substance on the issues.  You can be certain that as the campaign heats up they will continue to mislead voters with their anti-Republican agenda.


Ian, Republicans must fight back against the mainstream media's clear liberal bias -- and we need your help to do it.


Please make an urgent secure online contribution of $1,000, $500, $100, $50, or $25 to help the RNC get our responsible message of lower taxes, a strong national defense, and limited government past the liberal media filter and directly to the voters.


Thank you in advance for your support.


Best Wishes,


Robert M. "Mike" Duncan

Chairman, Republican National Committee

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