As if the squabble between the Times and lawyers for John McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman weren't interminable and boring enough, the settlement that they reached didn't involve money or retractions, it just involved dragging readers through more of the fuss. In the end, the Times didn't have to take back their story about how some of McCain's advisers worried that there appeared to be too close a relationship between the two. Instead, they agreed to publish a statement from Iseman's lawyers, a response from the Times, and a joint statement from both. Also, a Note to Readers will be published in the paper tomorrow.
Here's a sample of the loveliness that comes from Iseman's lawyers. Practically poetry, no?
Words have an extraordinary power to wreak havoc on the life of a human being. Shakespeare, writing in Othello that "Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, Is the immediate jewel of their souls" marked his essential link between our reputation and our humanity. United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, writing centuries later, asserted this same fundamental truth when he wrote that the individual's right to protection of his or her good name "reflects no more than our basic concept of the essential dignity and worth of every human beign — a concept at the root of any decent system of ordered liberty." In a manner perhaps unique in the history of nations, we as Americans have embraced cherished First Ammendement principles to strike a delicate balance between the need to protect freedom of speech and the need to protect individual worth, dignity and humanity.
It gets worse from there. The Times is a little less high-minded, but no less spiteful, in its response to their response:
The commentary by Mssrs. Smolla and Allen gives readers a general sense of the case they would have attempted to make if their lawsuit had proceeded. But the first point to make is, the case did not proceed. It was settled without money changing hands, and without The Times backing away from the story. In the joint statement we are releasing today and in a "Note to Readers," we reiterate what we have said since the story was published: that article did not allege an affair or unethical behavior on Ms. Iseman's part. We stand by our coverage, and we are proud of it.
Yeah, and in case that wasn't enough, in the joint statement, we get this:
The Times and Ms. Iseman recognize that the article's publication generated a significant public debate concerning the privacy of people swept up in public matters. To further that debate, the Times has published a commentary, writted by W. Coleman Allen, Jr. of Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen, and Rodney A. Smolla, Ms. Iseman's counsel in the lawsuit, and available at www.nytimes.com, which further explores these issues.
If there is any one nugget of prose that encapsulates for us the mind-numbing stubbornness and pedantry of this entire process, it's the phrase "Allen, Allen, Allen and Allen."