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Friday, February 22, 2008

The McCain Campaign Machine, Under Fire, and Came Out Swinging

All the hoopla yesterday over the "story" that wasn't. The rumor, anonymous sources and four pages of innuendo that even liberals called the New York Times out over, did give us a glance at the McCain campaign machine as well as the Times giving conservatives a reason to rally behind McCain, even conservatives that often criticize him, and how team McCain was able to "Turn the tables on the Times" as Politico titles their post today.

I will admit to having my qualms about John McCain as the presumed nominee for presidency for the Republican party, he has his faults but it always came down to choices and between McCain, Hillary and choice was easy by simply remembering what my own priorities are.

What the Times did though was give us a unique opportunity to see the McCain campaign team in action, under fire, and their response and handling of the situation was impressive, if not downright phenomenal.

An hour after The Times posted the story at about 7:45 p.m., Hazelbaker issued a scathing response labeling it “a hit and run smear campaign.” Soon after, the campaign sent reporters the extensive response prepared for the Times back in December. After that, the press received excerpts from the appearance of Robert Bennett, the Washington lawyer hired by McCain to try to deal with the newspaper on the story, on Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes.”

At the same time, McCain backers were gathering up favorable reaction and analysis on the cable networks and forwarding it to conservative media voices and other opinion makers on the right.

“We wanted to be fast, forward-leaning and as open and transparent as possible,” said a McCain aide involved in the effort.

That is exactly what they did.

The took to the airwaves, the phones, email, and John McCain and his wife went in front of the cameras, at 9 am in Toledo, and answered every question thrown at them with no hesitation and no intervention from his aides.

They went to McCain skeptics, one of which was conservative media critic Brent Bozell who heads the media watchdog group, Media Research Center, who in turn issued a statement ripping the Times a new one.

The perfect description of what team McCain did yesterday comes from GOP strategist Phil Musser, a former executive director of the Republican Governors Association, who said "Tactically, the McCain campaign executed flawlessly and quickly to put this story back in the box. They re-shaped the coverage from dawn to dusk, avoided any big name conservative defections and were actually monetizing the event online at the Grey Lady's expense."

The story of the day wasn't the New York Times' story about John McCain, it was, even in some of the bigger liberal blogs, the irresponsibility and shoddy reporting done by the New York Times.

Greg Sargent, at TPM's Horse's Mouth, writes that the Times doesn't "have the goods" and "shouldn't have gone there." Matthew Yglesias accuses the Times of "shameful" dealings in "innuendo," though he's interested in the sex-free, lobbying aspects of the story. Big Tent Democrat at TalkLeft calls it "troubling" and bad for Democrats. Kevin Drum writes of the Times that "there's no way that they 'nailed' anything."

Horse Mouth also does a little experiment by replacing names and calls his own party supporters out on hypocrisy.

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?

And those were the comments from the left.

Blogs aren't the only ones criticizing the New York Times though, so were other newspapers, like the editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer who explains why they made the decision not to follow the Times down the rabbit hole.

....You're still dealing with a possible appearance of impropriety, eight years ago, that is certainly unproven and probably unprovable.

Where is the solid evidence of this lobbyist improperly influencing (or bedding) McCain? I didn't see it in the half-dozen times I read the story. In paragraphs fifty-eight through sixty-one of the sixty-five-paragraph story, the Times points out two matters in which McCain took actions favorable to the lobbyist's clients -- that were also clearly consistent with his previously stated positions.

That's pretty thin beer.

The Times have found themselves under fire and admit that they have already received over 2,000 comments and in their words "many of them criticizing the handling of the article" and have set up a session where the editors and reporters that worked on the article will answer questions.

The New York Times "hit piece" as it has been called gave us a unique opportunity to see the John McCain campaign team, under fire and on the offense, when the story was meant to put them on the defense.