Commentary Magazine


NY Times’s False Attack on McCain

The New York Times carries an article today echoing congressional Democrats’ complaint that John McCain refuses to enable them to name, shame, and attempt to destroy the careers of Republican donors while shielding Democratic interest groups from scrutiny. That would be the DISCLOSE Act, which would force conservative grassroots to disclose publicly their political activity. Such groups and individuals have already been subjected to IRS shenanigans, death threats, and the occasional act of violence.

Democrats see no problem with this, as I detailed here. But McCain won’t help them get bipartisan support. So the Times sprang into action today, calling McCain a water-carrier for the Republican Party and suggesting he is a hypocrite on campaign finance. Of course that is not the case, as McCain has publicly lambasted the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling striking down campaign finance regulations that McCain likes. But aside from getting all its facts wrong, the Times article also gets personal:

Many of Mr. McCain’s other interests align neatly with the big issues of the day, particularly the debate over the role of the United States in conflicts in the Middle East — in which he has largely been a staunch critic of the Obama administration — and the planned Pentagon cuts.

The pattern is similar to that of other unsuccessful presidential candidates, like Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, who publicly sulked for a few years before becoming a major player on Afghanistan and other issues.

“I just think a lot of it has to do with the agenda,” Mr. McCain said of his re-emergence, in an impromptu interview with several reporters. “After I lost, I knew that the best way to get over it was to get active.” (Mr. McCain, who disputed some coverage of him by The New York Times during the 2008 campaign, has a policy of not speaking directly to reporters from The Times.)

Let’s take this from that last note. The Times wants readers to think McCain is sour over a generalized perception that the Times was biased against him in 2008. The Times doesn’t say what actually happened, because it was a low point not just for the egregiously unethical Times but for modern journalism in general, bringing shame to the paper from liberals as well as conservatives.

It was the Times’s unsupported allegations referencing McCain’s relationship with a lobbyist that the Times insinuated had become an affair. It was unsubstantiated, and the public generally recoiled in horror at the Times. Liberal bias is one thing, but not in anyone’s recent memory had a major newspaper published an unsubstantiated story to destroy the family of a respected politician simply because he was running against the Times’s preferred candidate.

Times editor Bill Keller took a lot of heat for the story. Did he backtrack and apologize? Nope. Here’s his response when he was asked about McCain’s criticism of the paper for running the story: “My first tendency when they do that is to find the toughest McCain story we’ve got and put it on the front page.”

Destroy McCain, Keller said. So now that the Times’s editor had announced a personal vendetta against McCain for disputing the coverage, McCain had the understandable reaction of avoiding the Times and talking to newspapers that hadn’t threatened to use whatever it had against him to destroy his career.

Now, on to the suggestion that McCain is somehow walking in John Kerry’s path by taking a vocal role in foreign affairs, it would appear that the Times reporter is mostly unfamiliar with John McCain. McCain, you’ll recall, has something of a background in military issues. After his heroics in Vietnam, he took that desire to serve his country to the Congress, where he has been easily the senator most engaged in foreign policy. (He was also right about the Iraq surge when his Democratic colleagues were abandoning the effort and sliming American servicemen and women.)

What is Kerry’s legacy on matters of war and peace? Well, most recently it was his far-too-cozy relationship with Bashar al-Assad, as Assad was gearing up to slaughter the Syrian population. This is Kerry’s audition for secretary of state in a hypothetical second Obama term. I don’t think the Times means this as a compliment to Kerry. More likely it’s part and parcel of the paper’s efforts to insult McCain, and those at the Times probably thought there was nothing more insulting than comparing him to John Kerry.