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.