This morning's huge story in the New York Times raises suspicions of an inappropriate relationship between John McCain and a lobbyist named Vicki Iseman. McCain has already given a stern and measured denial at a press conference in Ohio. However, rather than the content of the story, it's the piece itself that seems to be the subject of scrutiny.
The piece raises the idea of the relationship, which allegedly surfaced eight years ago, and the controversy stems from the seeming lack of proof or real story. The extent of the affair seems to be this:
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.
A short paragraph later the piece admits:
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship.
The reaction to the piece has been focused on whether an unnamed source reporting that McCain's campaign staff had decided to lessen Iseman's presence, and the fact that both parties had categorically dismissed the story, makes it real news. In addition, the release of the story the day after McCain had used the word "nominee" raises questions of a possible smear tactic.
What do you think? Is there more to the story we don't know yet? Is the real problem that the woman was a lobbyist, whether or not there was a sexual component? Is the presence of suspicion of an affair damaging to a candidate who holds his integrity up as his identity? Was the Times grasping at straws?