McCain ready for “war” with NYT; Update: Did Huckabee know? Update: Video added

posted at 9:21 am on February 21, 2008 by Allahpundit

He’s holding a pro forma presser as I write this to sniff at the charges, which I thought was a foolish way of making a small story into a big deal until I saw this. It’s already big; might as well hit back. The conspiracy theories swirl: Who fed this to the Times last year, back when Maverick was still a longshot? Is Gibby right that the Times endorsed him last month, after this was already in the works, the better to sandbag him now? Could TNR’s murky role in all of this be payback for McCain laughing at them over l’affaire Beauchamp? And the greatest conspiracy of all — could the Times so love their Maverick that they’d set themselves up as a dragon for McCain to slay and thereby reclaim his conservative bona fides? Well, er, no, but that’s the effect!

The McCain campaign is using a two-pronged attack to push back against the story. First, they’ll argue it was a thinly sourced piece of innuendo journalism. But McCain aides will also strike at the source, using the Times’ liberal reputation as a means of self-defense to draw sympathy from the GOP’s conservative base.

To this end, a top McCain adviser accused the paper of practicing tabloid journalism.

“It’s not every night I stay up to read the National Enquirer,” said Charlie Black, who was with other top McCain aides at the senator’s Arlington, Va., headquarters to mount the counterattack.

Black noted he had taken heat from some of his “conservative friends’ after McCain won the paper’s endorsement in January. “We’re going to go to war with them now,” Black said. “We’ll see if that hurts or helps.”

The whole campaign’s hitting the “National Enquirer” talking point, including Mark McKinnon and Mark Salter, who offers more background on the role of the House of Foer in this:

Salter blamed the New York Times’ obsession with this sort of intramural scorekeeping as the paper’s real motivation for going ahead with a story “they’d already spiked.” “They did this because the The New Republic was going to run a story that looked back at the infighting there,” Salter said, “the Judy Miller-type power struggles — they decided that they would rather smear McCain than suffer a story that made the New York Times newsroom look bad.”…

Salter also said that the Senator would soon release statements from those people interviewed by the Times for the story — “dozens” according to him — who denied many of the facts alleged in the story (including Iseman’s supposedly frequent presence in the Senate office), but who were not quoted in the piece.

They’ve already released this so clearly they’ve been preparing. As for the supposed infighting at the Times, note the detail in Jim Rutenberg’s reply to Patrick Hynes that not only doesn’t he want to talk about the piece, no one else at the paper wants to talk about it either. We’ll see what TNR has to say later. In the meantime, if the Times is hot for stories about lobbyists exercising influence over major candidates, how about this?

Exit question one: What are the odds that Maverick would be linked to someone named Iceman? Exit question two: What are Huck and, especially, Mitt thinking right now? Halperin wonders.

Update: Commenter Weight of Glory contrasts the McCain spin shop with the Bush version.


Update: Is this the “last twist” that Huck’s been counting on to deliver him the nomination? The story’s been in the works for months and has been teased on Drudge more than once. Huck’s staffers haven’t been shy in the past about hinting at secret knowledge of scandals set to break. Huck probably hung around hoping that the bomb would drop and would be big enough to knock Maverick out of the race, leaving him the last man standing.

But if he knew, why didn’t Romney know?

Update: An interesting detail buried near the end of the Politico piece linked up top. Here’s what the TNR story’s going to focus on, assuredly:

Reporters Jim Rutenberg, Stephen Labaton, and Marilyn Thompson — who’s leaving the paper — also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Feb. 12, the Washington Post announced that Thompson would be leaving the Times and returning to the Post, her employer for fourteen years.

Rumors had circulated internally that Thompson had been working on the McCain piece and was dissatisfied it had not yet run, according to two Times staffers.

Update: Here’s the first few minutes of the presser.

Update: And here’s the Q&A about Iseman.

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Comment pages: 1 2 3

Geronimo on February 21, 2008 at 4:27 PM

I live in San Jose. :D

JayHaw Phrenzie on February 21, 2008 at 8:21 PM

You can hit him about illegals, or Campaign Finance, but not ethics. McCain calls ’em as he sees ’em. He supports or opposes legislation based on his opinion, & nothing else. There is no evidence to the contrary.

jgapinoy on February 21, 2008 at 9:59 PM

McCain could have ended this entirely with a one sentence reply:

This story is a lie…

…next question.

Anything… and I DO MEAN ANYTHING further… as far as commenting goes, looks like politicking, hedging your bets, equivocating, spinning the story, tapdancing as you play for time, and a cheezy pro forma “outrage”.

McCain’s reply sounded overly wordy (AKA fishy), to me.

Whether it was or was not is immaterial.

That’s how you SOUND whenever you answer crap back with anything but a curt, strong, UTTER dismissal.

Something more is going on.

profitsbeard on February 21, 2008 at 10:05 PM

profitsbeard on February 21, 2008 at 10:05 PM

From Senator McCain’s Press Conference:

QUESTION: Senator, did you ever have any meeting with any of your staffers in which they would have intervened to ask you not to see Vicki Iseman or to be concerned about appearances of being too close to a lobbyist?


QUESTION: No meeting ever occurred?


QUESTION: No staffer was ever concerned about a possible romantic relationship?

MCCAIN: If they were, they didn’t communicate that to me.

QUESTION: Did you ever have such relationship?



What part of “No” do you not understand? :)

JayHaw Phrenzie on February 21, 2008 at 10:17 PM

Some time between now and November ….

NYT Headline:

“McCain Eats Kittens!”

If I were a fish and you wrapped me in the NYT I’d be insulted.

Chimp 6 on February 21, 2008 at 10:34 PM


Maybe you missed how much longer he kept answering this question.

I’m disappointed in the New York Times… “. (ZZZzzzz.)
She was a friend of mine...”
(“Friend”? “How good a friend?”)

Etc., etc., etc., blah-blah-blah.

Stop answering if there’s nothing to answer about.

And continue spinning it for fundraising effect.

I’m not saying there’s anything to the story at all, but the effect of his answering it so many different ways leaves the impression that he’s being a politician (sounding like B.J. Clinton).

And not simply mocking the story as complete bullsh*t and getting back to the business of defining Obama as a phantasm.

I’m trying to give him some helpful advice:

If there’s nothing in the “story” worthy of discussing, stop discussing it.

Otherwise people start to wonder: “Hmmm… why did he say ‘She was a friend of mine’? Is his ‘was‘ like Clinton’s ‘is‘?”

End it with a curt, crushing blow, and move past it.

profitsbeard on February 21, 2008 at 10:35 PM

You hit the nail on the head. I suspected religous bigotry was big s’s problem but missed that snide shot completely. That proves what his problem is. I hope he and any others with that problem get a kick out of the next 50 years of fascism they are helping bring to America. If he’s an evangelical it will be interesting seeing there reaction when the fascists cement their political position and then come after people of faith.

peacenprosperity on February 21, 2008 at 3:47 PM

Amazing how often a defense of Romney includes a charge of religious bigotry.

It is a fact that Romney won 90% plus of the Republican primary in Utah, and in Nevada he had about 94% of the Mormon vote. So if there’s identity politics at play in rejecting Romney, there seems to be identity politics at play in his support.

I suspect the people who are always accusing others of “bigotry” are not innocent of it themselves. That certainly would seem to match the MO of Al Sharpton, the famed “racial arsonist,” and Jesse Jackson, who’s made a fortune by accepting donations to his organization from corporations who have been flagged as racist.

Maybe, just maybe, Romney wasn’t convincing as a conservative? While certainly true that he wasn’t a “flip-flopper” — that is, he may have “flipped” some of his positions, but he never “flopped” back — he was still not exactly consistently conservative in his politics. However, if he sticks to the positions he seemed to take in this last campaign into the next one, that whole liability would be gone, and he could very likely win the conservative vote outright.

But what do I know? I’m obviously a religious bigot for not supporting him from the get-go.

theregoestheneighborhood on February 21, 2008 at 10:56 PM

I refuse to vote for this socialist lapdog, but if he standsup I will admit my error and vote for him.

allrsn on February 22, 2008 at 1:54 AM

That whole lobbyist thing is not worth the air it takes to say it. Its an old ploy by a woman trying to smear a man, and that is go after his crotch. You think that man was thinking about his crotch when he was sitting in a friggin POW cage during Vietnam eating bugs? Makes me sick.

johnnyU on February 22, 2008 at 1:43 PM

Comment pages: 1 2 3