Timing, Sourcing Suggest GOP, Not Dems, Behind McCain ‘Smear Campaign’

The McCain campaign has had two months to prepare for the story published in the New York Times about his cozy relationship eight years ago with a young blond woman who happened to be a lobbyist.
The possibility that Romney’s mitts were all over this might explain McCain’s palpable antipathy toward him.
The campaign’s rapid response team put out a news release last night that twice used the phrase “smear campaign” to describe the Times story:

“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”

They have had this response in the can for two months, so it bears some scrutiny. The word “smear” is predictable but to use it twice in conjunction with “campaign” is interesting.

One news story is hardly a “campaign.” And it is obvious from even a casual reading of the Times article that lawyers have been all over it. But is there more to come? The McCain team’s use of the word “campaign” suggests there could be.

Or, it is equally likely that “campaign” is a bit of transference — that McCain and his operatives know the source of the story was a rival campaign.

Conservatives are swarming the media this morning trying to pin this story on a) Democrats and b) the liberal media. But as was noted here last night, the timing and sourcing — as well as the actions of two of the other GOP candidates — suggest the Times got the story from McCain’s conservative Republican opponents.

First, the source of the Times article can only be detected by parsing, but it is clear that the details could have only come from — and confirmed by — operatives in McCain’s 2000 campaign, all of whom, let’s assume, were Republicans. As to motive, how about sour grapes from a 2000 staffer who was not asked to work on the 2008 campaign? Or perhaps one of the 2000 operatives was an extreme-right Dittohead mole, who had a job on a rival GOP campaign when the story was originally set to run in December.

Second, the timing: Whoever leaked the story to the Times appears to have synced it to the campaign schedule so that, with fact-checking and the other vetting, the story would be ready to go around December 20 — immediately before public attention turned away from the campaigns and onto the holidays — and two weeks before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

In late December, the Democratic campaigns were focused on each other, and weren’t expending much, if any, energy on their Republican rivals. At that point, it was far from clear that McCain would become the frontrunner.

The source of the story was most likely one of McCain’s rivals. Judging by their actions, almost all of them could be eliminated except for Mitt Romney, who, as has been noted here and elsewhere, made a big show of “suspending,” not ending his campaign. (Campaigns are often technically “suspended” when they close in order to keep payroll and accounting functions open but the difference here is how Romney stressed the word “suspended” in his concession, and how that keyword was picked up and repeated over and over by Beltway pundits and newsreaders — all of whom have known about this story since before Christmas.)

The possibility that Romney’s mitts were all over this might explain McCain’s palpable antipathy toward him.

The Huckabee campaign has known about the story, too, which explains Huckabee’s insistence on staying in, despite the dead-certain odds he’ll never get the delegates to beat McCain at the convention. Huckabee has said he’s sticking around in case McCain has a “macaca moment.”

Perhaps this is it.

18 Comments

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  • Big Hat Democrat
    February 21, 2008 - 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Works for me.

  • Keith Blevins
    February 21, 2008 - 8:59 pm | Permalink

    I suspect the Obama camp pushed this to come out yesterday. Its the perfect two-fer. He gets to shift the media focus away from Michelle’s gaffe regarding her lack of pride in her country. It also lets him slam his potential GE opponent. No downside unless it comes out that they were behind it. It is also consistent with his past campaigns, pushing behind the scenes to sensationalize his opponent’s divorce filings.

    This guy is a lot sleazier than his image would suggest.

  • John
    February 21, 2008 - 9:34 pm | Permalink

    Keith Blevins wrote:

    I suspect the Obama camp pushed this to come out yesterday. Its the perfect two-fer. He gets to shift the media focus away from Michelle’s gaffe regarding her lack of pride in her country. It also lets him slam his potential GE opponent. No downside unless it comes out that they were behind it. It is also consistent with his past campaigns, pushing behind the scenes to sensationalize his opponent’s divorce filings.

    This guy is a lot sleazier than his image would suggest.

    My reply:

    Your an idiot!!!!!!

  • John
    February 21, 2008 - 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Keith Blevins wrote:

    I suspect the Obama camp pushed this to come out yesterday. Its the perfect two-fer. He gets to shift the media focus away from Michelle’s gaffe regarding her lack of pride in her country. It also lets him slam his potential GE opponent. No downside unless it comes out that they were behind it. It is also consistent with his past campaigns, pushing behind the scenes to sensationalize his opponent’s divorce filings.

    This guy is a lot sleazier than his image would suggest.

    My reply:

    Youre an idiot!!!!!!

  • Daniel T.
    February 21, 2008 - 9:53 pm | Permalink

    I think mcCain is guilty as hell. He has admitted to cheating on hsi first wife , with his current wife.

  • February 21, 2008 - 9:57 pm | Permalink

    WOW Kevin Blevins, you ascribe much power to Obama, even so much that he was able to get Drudge to break this story back in Novemeber, but it never went anywhere in the ReichtWIng echo chamber over there. Everyone at that time, felt bad for the McFlipflopper, since his straight talk express at that time, was sans engine, 3 flats and the driver was on strike. But I digress, you can skulk out of the room now asshat.

  • ms schomaker
    February 21, 2008 - 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Keith Blevins is not the only one to think that this is an Obama “outing” of McCain.

    Tony Rezko’s trial begins on Monday and the plan was that the Obama campaign was going to bring the McCain allegations out next week (early in the week) to deflect attention away from Obama and his connections with the indicted Rezko, who is originally from Syria. The New York Times had been working on the McCain story for months and decided they had invested a lot of time and dough in it, so they published it this week.

    Obama’s campaign miscalculated on their timing. They figured the story would keep the heat off of Obama next week when the Rezko trial begins.

    Nope, Obama’s campaign has its fingerprints all over this McCain story.

    Too bad for Obama that his campaign jumped the gun on their timing.

  • Wisdom First
    February 21, 2008 - 11:04 pm | Permalink

    First, I just want to say how hilariously “Me” writes. I love it. Really. Consider commenting in Buzzflash’s daily mailbag. I’d love to read more of your writing.

    On a substantive note: The New York Times editorial people are right-wingers, and the “paper of record” has had quite a record of ignoring stories that critically need to be heard. So when an egghead on MSNBC and other propaganda cable noise stations note that The New York Times is considered to be liberal, I laugh and search for the barf bag at the same moment. So who’s behind this? Whoever controls The New York Times.

  • Lucius13
    February 22, 2008 - 12:04 am | Permalink

    How can anybody say Obama is behind this when the source is a former top aide of John McCain’s? This story was put out by either McCian or the GOP to garner sympathy for this man that is way too old to be president.

  • Pat Williams
    February 22, 2008 - 12:22 am | Permalink

    It would be far more likely that the Clinton camp would have impacted the bosses at the NYT than Obama’s. But it’s a better bet that Republican interests in having an alternate candidate are behind the eight year old story. Note that Rush Limbaugh’s animosity toward McCain seems to dovetail with this. It ain’t over yet, folks, for either party.

  • rigby
    February 22, 2008 - 1:22 am | Permalink

    Another option is that the McCain camp whipped this out themselves. The Mac is so rickety and pigmentally challenged that when compared to Obama he looks rather prehistoric. By reviving an old dalliance with a woman in her thirties back in 2000, he makes himself more virile, without resorting to Bob Dole’s fix.

  • jgmurphy
    February 22, 2008 - 1:30 am | Permalink

    David Brooks ahs already “outed” the source of this scandalette, who is a guy named John Weaver, a rival of current campaign McCainiac honcho named Davis. The Weaver-Davis rivalry, according to Brooks, has been simmering for years and reached a full rolling boil recently. Weaver, as it were, has been forced out and in line with his “dark” personality, is strongly suspected of leaking this sordid tale to the NY Times.

    Now whether the story itself is true, is open to question. One would assume that given the time frame (1999-2000) of the alleged peccadillo, when McCain was in a bitter contest with Bush for the GOP nomination, the Bush camp would have been all over this. With Rove on board, how could they possibly have missed it?

  • jimbo
    February 22, 2008 - 2:34 am | Permalink

    This has the smell of Karl Rove. Where is he by the way?

  • deke33
    February 22, 2008 - 5:07 am | Permalink

    It is possible that Keller of the Times has more data that has not yet been released. It is possible and I think more likely that the original article was purposely vague to elicit honest responses from McCain and Bennett. It is possible that after their nondenial denials the other shoe will drop. You know, perhaps intimate photos or recordings of McCain and his paramour. Or perhaps entering a hotel room at night and exiting in the AM. I wonder if McCain, if my suppositions are true would favor wiretaps and buggings. It would be good to do to McCain who felt no compunction about kissing the people responsible for spreading rumors about his POW activities in the South Carolina 2000 primary.

  • jummy
    February 22, 2008 - 12:13 pm | Permalink

    “Works for me”

    I love seing this on the progressive blogs; from “true story” to “Rove smear operation” in two posts.

    [link]

  • February 24, 2008 - 1:33 pm | Permalink

    What the h… difference does it make anyway. If McCain is guilty of cheating on his wife or/and helping telecom and other lobbyist to gain the policies they wish into law, while claiming he is against this before he was for it.

    Looks as if Clinton is fair gain for any and all BS, lies and propaganda the republicans and the news media likes to throw at them , but Republican Corruption, Greed, and Incompetence http://www.republicancorruption.com/ is a no-no for the American citizens to see or hear.

    How about the continual miss spelling of Obama’s name to tie him with terrorist and after 8 years of our tax money used for the republicans intertainment for their propaganda of the Clintons. While at the same time Newt , Trent Lott and other republican were involved in sex misconduct on their wife. Then we have Larry Craig voting to impeach Bill Clinton calling him a naughty boy, and we know Larry Craig has no misconduct.

    The BS and propaganda goes on and on,, While the democrats instead of calling the republicans what they are,, try to defend the republicans BS being exposed in the republican news media of calling a crook a crook.

    After all the lies and BS the republicans have been involved in and thrown at democrats on a daily basis , I say to them “GO TO H…” NO MATTER WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS ARTICLE.

  • nixnax
    February 25, 2008 - 7:52 am | Permalink

    ***This has the smell of Karl Rove. Where is he by the way?
    Comment by jimbo Feb. 22, 2008, 2:34 am *** Rove is now an adviser for McCain.

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