Sort of, in a “I told you never to trust The Man” way:

Limbaugh wrote in an e-mail to Politico: “The story is not the story. The story is the Drive By media turning on its favorite maverick and trying to take him out. The media picked the GOP’s candidate, the NYT endorsed him while they sat on this story, and is now, with utter predictability, trying to destroy him.”

Limbaugh added: “This is what you get when you walk across the aisle and try to make these people your friends. I’m not surprised in the least that the NYT would try to take out John McCain. Predicted this, in fact, way back in the early 2000s. Sen. McCain courted the media, cultivated them, even bragged that the media was his ‘base.’ I cringed when I heard it because the media turning on McCain was as predictable as the sun rising in the morning.”

Limbaugh was one of several influential conservatives who, to the delight and relief of the McCain campaign, immediately decided that the behavior of the Times — not the senator — should be the issue.

What choice do they have? If this had dropped a month ago they’d be clubbing him with it to push Romney. As it is, the only alternative is … no alternative at all. Follow the link for some other choice comments from Laura Ingraham, who sees in this a perfect example of why Maverick desperately needs talk radio on his side. I don’t know — how’d that work out for him in the primaries so far?

Here’s Bill Keller’s statement wondering why, if the story’s so wrong, nobody’s tried to challenge it yet. Well, er, McCain did this morning, and Carl Cameron claims to have investigated this himself when the first inklings of it dribbled out on Drudge back in December and discovered a little bit of jack and a whole lot of squat. Although maybe we’re not reading Keller’s statement closely enough; Patrick Ishmael e-mails to say he takes Keller’s point as being “our sources said X, Y, and Z and no one’s challenged the fact that they said X, Y, and Z, ergo the story’s perfectly accurate.” By that standard, isn’t that dopey story in the Enquirer about some woman carrying Silky’s baby also “perfectly accurate”?

Meanwhile, Jay Rosen wonders why they’d endorse a guy whom they believe to be an unethical philanderer. Hey, Jay? Who’d they endorse in 1992 and 1996? Besides, this only proves how much they loathe conservatives: If they think McCain’s this scummy and they’re still willing to back him, what does that say about what they think of Mitt Romney?

Update: The implication in an article full of implications was that John Weaver, McCain’s then right-hand man, met with Iseman at Union Station in 2000 to tell her to end her romantic relationship with him. Tain’t so, says Weaver to Byron York:

I just got off the phone with John Weaver, the former top McCain campaign official who is now an informal adviser to the campaign. I asked him about his 1999 meeting on the campaign’s behalf with lobbyist Vicki Iseman. He said he “had no reason to think” that McCain might have been having an affair with Iseman, but he was concerned about word he had heard suggesting that Iseman was telling associates she had connections with McCain. “This was a woman who was saying that she had special influence with John’s committee staff and with him,” Weaver told me. “I didn’t believe that was the case.”

“When you hear back from several people that this person is saying they can get anything done, then that is alarming,” Weaver continued. So Weaver met with Iseman, at a Union Station restaurant, and told her to back off. He told me he didn’t exactly say, “Get lost,” but that that was the gist of it. “The discussion lasted all of five or six minutes in which I told her to cut that stuff out,” Weaver told me. “I said, ‘You need to stop this.'” Iseman’s response, according to Weaver: “She was not happy.”

Ambinder, who leans left, also seems to think Weaver’s a straight shooter.