Hooo boy! The Times really opened up a box of bees when they published their insinuating John McCain story late last night. If you haven't seen it, it concerns McCain's high-horse attitude toward ethics, which may have been compromised in part by a close, perhaps romantic relationship with attractive lobbyist Vicki Iseman during McCain's first run for president eight years ago. The paper (using a half-dozen reporters and thousands of words) described confrontations that staffers had with both McCain and Iseman to stop what appeared to be an inappropriate intimacy. By late last evening, political blogs and news programs were exploding with reactions. McCain's camp was outraged at what they called a "smear." It quickly surfaced that there had been a long period of debate inside the Times as to when to publish the piece, and whether to do it at all. The McCain camp claimed that the paper ran with it after hearing that The New Republic was going to publish a story about the infighting at the paper over its inflammatory contents. Some critics even went so far as to speculate that the liberal Times wanted to wait until the Republicans had a presumptive nominee before blowing a hole in his candidacy. Woweee. Whether any of this affects McCain remains to be seen (we cannot wait for the smackdown that Cindy McCain is bound to lay down today). But the scandal addresses something that's been itching us in the back of our heads for a long time: Why the heck is Mike Huckabee still in this race?
He says it's because voters deserve an election, "not a coronation," and that he wants to make the views of his supporters heard. But we've always suspected it was because he knew something we didn't. Right now he can't possibly gain the delegates he needs to win the nomination. But he does have, according to CNN, 217 of them. That's just 69 short of the amount that Mitt Romney had before dropping out of the race. Even if he finishes poorly in the next couple of contests, he's bound to pass Romney in the delegate count. If something happens to the 71-year-old McCain (like, God forbid, a health issue), Huckabee will then be in a good position to try to assume the Republican nomination by default. Since there have been whispers of the Times story for months now, this could be exactly what Huckabee was waiting for. He's sure to have known that something damning was in the works and may have been banking that it would be more devastating. It's a long shot that this scuffle will scuttle a McCain candidacy, of course, but if there's one thing Huckabee has a surplus of, it's faith.
For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk [NYT]
Related: John Edwards's Docudrama: The Anatomy of Innuendo
Update: During a live press conference starting at nine this morning, McCain protested any wrongdoing. "I'm very disappointed in the New York Times piece, it's not true." He denies that he ever had a romantic relationship with Vicki Iseman, and also denies that he had any meetings with staffers over their friendship. Meanwhile, Cindy McCain stood by him smiling (almost wickedly) throughout the press conference. Damn we love her.
Did you know that John McCain once dated a dancer named “Marie, the Flame of Florida” and that his high-school clique was known for doing “deliciously unimaginable things with women”? Find out about all that and more by browsing the 2008 Electopedia!