The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Joel Connelly seemed almost prescient in his column yesterday, accusing his colleagues in the legacy media of holding Sen. John McCain to a “different standard.”
[T]he national press corps’ “big feet” owe it to the country to put aside their pack mentality and subject McCain to the same critical scrutiny as other presidential hopefuls.
A year ago, on “Hardball,” Matthews asked about Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations: “What have you done to deserve this job?”
The program’s guest allowed that this was a “tough question” facing the full field of candidates.
“Not so much for McCain,” Matthews interrupted. “He has deserved the presidency. Whether he should be president or not, it’s up to the voters.”
It’s a different standard.
I don’t know if Joel was tipped that the New York Times bombshell was about to drop, but his column couldn’t have been more timely. Last night after reading the headlines of McCain’s alleged affair with a lobbyist 30 years his junior, and his inappropriate ties to firms with business before his committee, I flipped through the cable news channels expecting to see the media in a fevered feeding frenzy. Virtually nada. You’d think CNN and FOX News hadn’t discovered the Internet yet, while what little coverage I saw on MSNBC was almost apologetic: it’s a “ten year old story”, we were told… “anonymous sources” and “firm denials” from the campaign… there’s no there there. This despite the fact that as they spoke the Washington Post had already named names:
John Weaver, who was McCain’s closest confidant until leaving his current campaign last year, said he met with Vicki Iseman at the Center Cafe at Union Station and urged her to stay away from McCain. Association with a lobbyist would undermine his image as an opponent of special interests, aides had concluded.
By this morning, the right wing propaganda machine was in top gear, attempting to make this a story about the NY Times credibility, not Sen. McCain’s… and how this unfolds over the next few days and weeks will tell Joel everything he needs to know about the objectivity, impartiality and courage of his colleagues in the legacy press. Anybody who knows anything about the workings of the corporate media knows that the NY Times only ran this story after extensive research and internal debate, and only after an excruciating vetting by their attorneys. And, at it’s heart, this is not merely a story about an inappropriate relationship (sexually consummated or not) between a then 63-year-old US senator and a 32-year-old lobbyist; this is a story about an inappropriate relationship between a US senator and lobbyists and their clients who had business before his committee. This is the story about a presidential candidate who runs on his reputation as a champion of campaign finance reform and breaking the power of special interests, while at the same time using his influence on behalf of companies giving him tens of thousands of dollars in contributions and flying him around on their private jet.
This is a story about hypocrisy.
If this were a story about Barack Obama it would likely cost him the nomination. If Hillary Clinton, a married woman, was exposed as having had a romantic affair, it would likely end her political career. But “Straight Talk” McCain, a man who has admitted to past infidelity (he began his affair with his current wife before divorcing his first)… he, we are told, should receive the benefit of the doubt. If he denies having sex with Ms. Iseman, then that should be the end of that. And if the sexual allegation is dismissed, then that means all the other very serious allegations in the NY Times article should be dismissed as well. At least, that is the GOP spin we’re hearing today coming from their official and unofficial mouthpieces.
But this is not an unsourced smear as the McCain camp has framed it, and it is not a he said/she said about sex. The NY Times published a well sourced article about official corruption, and it is time for the DC media to abandon their myth about the straight talking McCain, and as Joel says, subject him to “the same critical scrutiny as other presidential hopefuls.”
The right will attempt to do to the NY Times what they did to Dan Rather. Shame on the traditional media if they succeed. And shame on us in the blogosphere if we allow that to happen without putting up one helluva fight.