While Barack Obama earns a standing ovation for blowing his nose, John McCain gets the full smear job for having been in the company of a female lobbyist. This is fitting, as the adulation surrounding Obama’s every twitch is as manufactured as the finger-wagging over McCain’s non-alleged scandal. Troubling that in the most serious of times, the media refuses to take this election seriously.
The New York Times piece in question is the journalistic equivalent of push-polling or the “it was all a dream” narrative explanation. They float a juicy two-pronged premise (adultery and political compromise) before the electorate with no greater justification than that some anonymous observers had mistakenly assumed it to be true. In the article, the Times practically does a cut-and-paste of the most incriminating bits, detailing the non-allegations at the beginning and end, so that all the relevant refutations are framed in slime.
John McCain came up against this kind of unscrupulous warfare in South Carolina during the 2000 primaries. George Bush’s camp invented a scenario to play on voters’ prejudice under the guise of a poll. Voters were asked if they would vote for McCain if they knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child. Back then, the attack was orchestrated by his opponent. That today such methods are employed by a supposedly impartial press goes to show how far the tenor of political coverage has sunk. But in either case it is a testament to John McCain’s character and record that the most potentially damaging blows to his candidacy need to be fashioned out of thin air. Just as it’s an indication of Barack Obama’s actual flimsiness that the abilities for which he’s adored are also fabrications. Elections have dealt in sleaze before, but this inclination towards legitimizing fiction is a new and alarming turn.
McCain’s team put out a detailed document on the allegations in the New York Times involving his relationship with a female lobbyist in 2000. On the morning shows the team followed it up with a fairly convincing case that McCain repeatedly took actions that were adverse to the interests of the lobbyist. Of course, the “doing favors” part of the story isn’t what makes it really problematic for him. And so, at a press conference he staged early this morning, the sure-to-be Republican presidential candidate was calm and emphatic in his denials. He might even have responded more angrily, but then the new storyline would have been “Temper Resurfaces.” With Cindy McCain at his side, the full court media counteroffensive by the McCain team and the New York Times apparently unwilling engage on the record about its reporting, this may ultimately turn out to be at worst a wash, and maybe a net plus (on multiple levels), for McCain, who needed to juice up the base a bit.
UPDATE: Perhaps the definitive (at least the funniest) analysis of the New York Times story is here (as is sometimes the case with real Cliff Notes, it is better than the original tale) and examination of the conservative backlash is here.
The New York Times came out with its Drudge-previewed piece about John McCain’s alleged dealings with a female lobbyist, and the McCain campaign immediately and strongly responded. Others (here, here, here and here) have already remarked on the thinly sourced allegations (and mutual denial) of his personal relationship with the lobbyist and questioned how far the story will go, since the Times dutifully reported aides’ statements that no inappropriate legislative action was taken. (Remarkably, the Times’ online reader comments suggest a high dose of skepticism about the sourcing and value of the story.)
Aside from the obvious question about the timing of the story and whether The New Republic stampeded the Times (Otherwise why run it now? What changed since the Drudge leak in December?), this raises the possibility that the story will perversely help McCain with certain elements in the conservative base that have long complained McCain has been too cozy with liberal media. (Many conservative pundits, of course, heaped scorn on McCain when the very same Times endorsed him.) If mutual antagonism toward the New York Times and the prospect of an ultra-liberal opponent can’t bring McCain and the conservative base together, I suppose nothing will.
Yesterday during a South Carolina press conference, a reporter took Mitt Romney to task for claiming he doesn’t have lobbyists running his campaign and Romney returned fire with . . . something.
AP reporter Glenn Johnson interrupted Romney and said, “That’s not true governor. That is not true. Ron Kaufman’s a lobbyist. How can you say that you don’t have lobbyists?” It is true that Kaufman is both a lobbyist and involved with Mitt Romney’s campaign. Romney went on the defense: “I said I don’t have lobbyists running my campaign and he’s not running my campaign.”
The unconvincing renunciation of lobbyists is neither new nor interesting. So, the media has tried to make something of Mitt Romney’s supposed outrage in response. But, as this clip of the incident demonstrates, Romney doesn’t do outrage very convincingly either. As the video reveals, he scolds the reporter with all the ferocity of a commercial airline pilot reporting on wind condition and ETA. Romney is a good face man, and a talented fixer, but this is no time for a smooth, safe, and comfortable presidency. When Bill Clinton flips he resembles a child having a tantrum and John McCain is capable of white-hot fury. Mitt Romney’s placid mien and financial and organizational know-how might make him, say, an excellent secretary of the treasury. But not a president.
How serious a candidate for the GOP presidential nomination is Fred Thompson?
Apparently quite serious indeed. Last week GOP insider pundit Robert Novak assured readers that Thompson isn’t just toying with running—he will declare his candidacy early next month. This rumor has generated outsized buzz, including a highly negative column by George Will. But a great many conservatives, dissatisfied with a field in which none of the three leading contenders is a down-the-line conservative, seem to be fans.
The former Senator’s most salient attribute is his persona. He has a large, comforting, commanding presence that Hollywood directors have seen fit to cast as an admiral, the director of the CIA, and even the President. His slow drawl, big eyes, and wrinkles make him the very image of the respected Southern lawyer. He is an excellent communicator, sympathetic, easy to watch, and never grating (which is not true of, say, Rudy). Some go so far as to call his qualities “Reaganesque.”
But what about substance?
A vaccine for Human Papillomavirus (HPV), approved last year, has now sparked controversy in at least a half dozen states. HPV is by far the most common sexually transmitted virus in the U.S. (a recent study suggests as many as 25 percent of women under the age of 60 are infected). Symptoms are usually not serious but two rare strains of the virus can actually cause cervical cancer—the second most common form of cancer among American women.
That’s why the introduction of an HPV vaccine made waves last year. Approved by the FDA in June, it is the first vaccine that can avert a form of cancer. Public health officials hailed it, and even President Bush talked it up earlier this year.