Rush Limbaugh had the best tack on the John McCain versus New York Times controversy. If they build him up, they can break him down. As Limbaugh put it, "If you let the media make you, you are subjecting yourself to the media being able to destroy you." So the issue becomes: what else do the liberal media have on McCain?
Although some conservatives immediately rallied to McCain's side, one has to honestly conclude that while the Times overplayed its hand by alluding to an unsubstantiated sexual relationship between McCain and a female lobbyist, the basic thrust of its story against the Arizona Senator was correct. McCain did favors for the client of the attractive blonde lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, who was single and just 32 when she began lobbying him. McCain said Iseman was just a "friend," whatever that means. She represented Paxson Communications through a lobbying firm called Alcalde & Fay and bragged about her influence with McCain.
AIM doesn't take a back seat to anybody in criticizing the New York Times. AIM Reports and columns over the last several decades are full of blistering attacks on this paper. We actually attend the paper's annual meetings so that we can raise our criticisms directly with the paper's top brass, including Arthur Sulzberger Jr. But dislike of the paper should not blind us to recognizing legitimate information.
However you look at the Times story about McCain, it is extremely damaging to a candidate who wants to come across as an opponent of the special interests. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is already attacking McCain over the fact that he has lobbyists as top aides and they are running his campaign. It looks bad, and McCain knows it. That's why he hired expensive lawyer Bob Bennett to be his mouthpiece.
It's been reported that the Times ombudsman, Clark Hoyt, has blasted the Times for running the story. But that's only partly true. In an analysis in the Sunday paper, he actually said, "...without the sex, The Times was on to a good story." That's a green light to continue probing McCain's lobbyist ties.
McCain is now in a trap, however. He can't get rid of the lobbyists around him without drawing more attention to his ties to them. This makes him a ripe target for the liberals and their media.
Limbaugh wondered why McCain said he was disappointed with the Times for publishing a story about his lobbyist connections. As Limbaugh suggested, did McCain actually think that the paper which endorsed him as the best Republican in the presidential race would actually protect him down the road against the Democrats? Conservatives and Republicans would have to be fools to think that would be the case.
McCain's ties to lobbyists will certainly be a major distraction if the Republicans ever get around to trying to expose the far-left views and agendas of candidates Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. The major media, even conservative outlets like Fox News, have already shown great reluctance to examine Obama's well-documented ties to socialists and communists. However, our story about Obama's Communist Party mentor is now all over the Internet. A continuing failure to cover the story will constitute a very strong case of journalistic malpractice.
Not all conservatives thought the Times was off-base in going after McCain's ties to lobbyists. These activists are angry that McCain is surrounded by lobbyists who put corporate interests ahead of conservative interests. They note, for example, that it has been impossible to get McCain to firmly commit to opposing the U.N.'s Law of the Sea Treaty. McCain has also indicated support for the International Criminal Court.
Five weeks ago a conservative coalition sent a letter (PDF) to McCain asking for clarification of his position on the Law of the Sea Treaty. There has been no response.
Some inquiries on this matter to McCain's presidential campaign have been deflected to his Senate office, where staffers are lately telling his Arizona constituents that he is in favor of the pact. McCain had earlier told conservative bloggers that he was against it. Before that, he was in favor of the treaty. The confusion leads some to conclude that the only way to get a straight answer is to hire a lobbyist with special access to the candidate.
In the latest controversy, McCain's campaign initially claimed that no representative of Paxson Communications or the lobbying firm Alcalde & Fay personally had asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of Paxson, who had wanted approval to buy a television station. But Newsweek discovered that McCain himself, during a deposition, had admitted that "I was contacted by Mr. [Lowell] Paxson on this issue." And Paxson tells the Post that he did have a meeting with McCain, although accounts differ on that.
McCain's high-powered attorney, Bob Bennett, responded by telling the Post, "We understood that he [McCain] did not speak directly with him [Paxson]. Now it appears he did speak to him. What is the difference? McCain has never denied that Paxson asked for assistance from his office. It doesn't seem relevant whether the request got to him through Paxson or the staff. His letters to the FCC concerning the matter urged the commission to make up its mind. He did not ask the FCC to approve or deny the application. It's not that big a deal." McCain was then the head of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over the FCC and its budget.
One of those defending McCain against the original story in the Times was John Feehery, who issued a statement declaring, "This kind of journalism only diminishes the reputation of the Times. I would expect this kind of reporting from the National Enquirer, not the New York Times."
It turns out that Feehery is a lobbyist, too. A former top aide to former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, his firm, the Feehery Group, claims an "impressive list of Fortune 500 companies and trade associations, including Newscorp, Ford Motor Company, PHARMA, and the United States Chamber of Commerce, among its clients." His website declares, "John Feehery's extensive network of contacts on the Hill, on K Street and in the media rivals that of anybody else in Washington."
It doesn't help McCain to have lobbyists defending him against New York Times stories about his ties to lobbyists.
To make matters worse for both Feehery and McCain, Feehery's statement ignores the fact that the National Enquirer has published true and accurate stories, such as the one about Jesse Jackson having an illegitimate child.
If the Times story about McCain's ties to lobbyists turns out to be only half as accurate as the National Enquirer's exposÃ© about Jackson, McCain is in deep trouble.