McCain Rides the News Cycle
02-22-2008
It has been a little over 24 hours, since The New York Times dropped its piece alleging an inappropriate relationship between John McCain and a Washington lobbyist. By virtually all accounts, McCain has been quite successful in controlling the trajectory of the initial news cycle that spun out from the story's publication. Not only did the article generate a lot of head-scratching among the mainstream media (with a few exceptions), but the Times also succeeded in accomplishing something for McCain that he had been unable to achieve on his own, which is the coalescing (at least for the moment) of conservative support around his candidacy. Conservative political observers have long been suspicious of the underlying motivations driving much of the Times’ political coverage, and they view this episode as a classic hit or smear by the liberal media on their party’s likely nominee.
 
After reading some follow-up commentary by the Times, my sense is that the paper sorely misjudged its ability to run a piece making a fairly nuanced argument about McCain’s uneasy proximity to the special interests that he regularly excoriates. The paper should have known that the suggestion of specific sexual and professional indiscretions by McCain with an identified woman would create a politics and media frenzy sufficient to obliterate any ability to make a more subtle big-picture argument about ethics. As I noted in yesterday's post, these kinds of stories tend to incubate over time on the internet, even after the initial firestorm has passed, so I will be interested to see whether a new variant will emerge around convention time, or during the general election campaign.


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