McCain aide blows gasket, rips New York Times

Jake Turcotte

There are many ways to get things done in the world of diplomacy. You can kill 'em with kindness, or you can just try to kill 'em.

On a conference call today with reporters on the topic of the New York Times, John McCain strategist Steve Schmidt chose option B.

It's not as though Schmidt and the New York Times were once like Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston –  the two never took long walks in the park, giggling about ponies, gumdrops, and having kids. There's a festering history. And today marked another chapter.

The wheels fell off

The call started off fine.  Then came a question about a story in the Times this morning about McCain campaign manager Rick Davis's former high-paying job as a lobbyist with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  It's a particularly touchy subject, in light of the recent government takeover of the two mortgage firms and the subsequent hard-hitting McCain campaign ads attempting to tie Obama to the mess.

Schmidt spotted the opportunity to take a swipe at the Times like a running back sees a hole in the defensive line.

“Let’s be clear and be honest with each other about something fundamental to this race, which is this: Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not — by any standard — a journalistic organization,” Schmidt said. “It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Senator McCain, attacks Governor Palin and excuses Senator Obama.”

And another thing

Schmidt said the New York Times has basically given Barack Obama a free pass in regards to the Senator's records, statements, and any of his "deceitful" campaign spots.

"It is an organization that has made a decision to has cast aside its journalistic integrity and to advocate for the defeat of one candidate ... and advocate for the election of another candidate," he said.


Why'd he do it? Everyone seems to be using the sports analogy of "working the refs." If he complains enough, the other media organizations will back down and play equalizer. You know, like a bald Phil Jackson.

Or maybe more like a bald Lou Pinella. Former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer compares it to baseball anyway.

"I think Steve was accurately reflecting the views of his campaign," Fleischer wrote in an email to The Vote blog.  "Just about every Republican campaign feels that way about the media from time to time.  Dealing with the press is sometimes a little like pitching in baseball – everyone once in a while you have to throw high and inside and hope it results in better coverage next time.  Sometimes it does, most often, it does not."

John Kerry

The Huffington Post's Sam Stein summons the ghost of the 2004 campaign in a piece titled, "McCain was for the NYT before he was against it."

For a party that rails against the New York Times, the Republicans sure depend on the Grey Lady to score political points. Since the end of the primary, John McCain's campaign has sent at least 60 emails to its rapid response list that reference the New York Times.

NYT responds

By the way, the Times – not surprisingly – hasn't cowered and apologized.  Instead, the executive editor released a standard statement.

“The New York Times is committed to covering the candidates fully, fairly and aggressively,” Keller wrote. “It’s our job to ask hard questions, fact-check their statements and their advertising, examine their programs, positions, biographies and advisers. Candidates and their campaign operatives are not always comfortable with that level of scrutiny, but it’s what our readers expect and deserve.”

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