Situational Ethics

by matttbastard

As Rush and the rest of the rebellious right do a 180 by rallying ’round the Maverick (nothing says “common cause” quite like hatin’ on teh librul Grey Lady), Greg Sargent conducts a little thought experiment:

Let’s take the meat of the big New York Times story and substitute the words “Dem Presidential Hopeful” for “John McCain”:

Early in Senator Dem Presidential Hopeful’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. Dem Presidential Hopeful had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. Dem Presidential Hopeful, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. Dem Presidential Hopeful led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

If these words had appeared on the front page of The New York Times, wouldn’t we all be yelling and stamping our feet about “panty sniffing” and condemning the use of anonymous sources who suggest a possible affair that may or may not have happened and wasn’t directly alleged by anyone?

That’s a sincere question. Wouldn’t we?

Conversely, would the wingnuts be circling the wagons in the name of journalistic integrity? IOKIYAR, natch.  Regardless, even if there’s no substance to allegations of sexual impropriety, Stephen Bainbridge wonders if the “values” wing will eventually grow tired of GOP relativism:

The social conservatives in the base already have problems with McCain. Don’t you think that someday that part of the base is going to get tired of the “values” party being led by divorced womanizers?

Now that is a sincere question.

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More High Brow Panty Sniffing

by matttbastard

dnA effing nails it:

[W]hy can’t the press hit the man over his support for torture, his myopic views on the war on terror, his flipness about bombing other countries, or his campaign finance hustling? Why is it that only by cheating on your spouse can an American politician dishonor themselves?

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Train Kept A-Rollin’

by matttbastard

Ryan Lizza in this week’s New Yorker:

It is bracing to drop in on the McCain campaign after covering the overly managed productions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Democratic candidates rarely speak to the travelling press. McCain not only packs his bus with reporters (whom he often greets with an affectionate “Hello, jerks!”) but talks until the room is filled with the awkward silence of journalists with no more questions. The Obama campaign, like the Bush White House, prides itself on message discipline and tracks down leakers with a frightening intensity. McCain and his aides openly discuss strategy, whether it’s Brooke Buchanan, McCain’s travelling press secretary, prepping him for a press conference (“ABC might ask about that”) or McCain discussing his targeting strategy for Tampa (“I thought we did a robo-call to tell people about Schwarzkopf”—referring to the endorsement by General Norman Schwarzkopf).

The intimacy of the bus means that McCain’s family life is an open book. (Cindy is dismayed that their son Jack recently split up with his girlfriend; John has turned his daughter Meghan’s status as an unemployed art-history grad into a punch line.) The chumminess with the press usually spills into the evenings, and McCain’s senior advisers dine almost nightly with the people covering the candidate.

McCain’s open-access policy is partly strategic. After all, he is able to hammer talking points like any politician. (It’s not just his jokes that he repeats.) But, by engaging reporters in long, even substantive conversations, he also disarms them. The incentive to ask “gotcha” questions that feed the latest news cycle is greatly reduced, and the hours of exposure to McCain breed a relationship that inclines journalists to be more careful about describing the context of his statements. Mark Salter believes that McCain’s back-of-the-bus rambles rarely produce gaffes. “Ten per cent of the time, something like that is going to happen,” he said. “But ninety per cent of the time it works out fine. If you just make your case, and reporters are familiar with you and know how you talk and know what you mean when you’re bouncing around on a bus and you truncate your sentences or something, then they know what you’re driving at, and you’re going to be fine.

Keep that in mind as you watch the members of the Fourth Estate twist themselves into knots debating whether the “breaking news” about McCain’s possible compromise of his vaunted “principles” constitutes a scoop or a “hit-and-run smear campaign” (Monica who? Oh, that was a real scandal–IOKIYAR, natch).

The Man Crush Express rolls on (also, what Marc Cooper said).

More from Josh Marshall, publius, Steve Benen, and a virtual avalanche of digital opinion scribes over @ Memeorandum.

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