Thursday, February 21, 2008

Literalizing the Metaphor

Todays Times reports that besides being in bed with lobbyists, McCain was apparently in bed with a lobbyist. Except they don't quite come out and say that.

Josh Marshall notes how the story was neutered:

We know that the McCain Camp went to the mattresses to get this story spiked back in December. And some heavy legal muscle was apparently brought to bear. When a story has to go through that much lawyering it often comes out pretty stilted and with some obvious lacunae....The reference to a possible affair is there in the lede. But then most of the piece is a rehash of a lot of older material....In terms of a relationship between the two, the Times piece seems quite hedged.
And it's exactly that hedging that allows Captain Ed to say "the most impressive aspect of the smear is just how baseless it is". I imagine most of the wingnuts, having demonized the Times for the last quarter century, will have the same reaction. If people in general see it as a non-story, McCain's lawyers will have accomplished a spectacular feat of damage control.

If they don't, however--if the story lasts more than a few news cycles, if more details come out, if we get information that directly contradicts McCain's semi-non-denial denial--then it could be devastating, because it goes directly to McCain's straight-talking reformer image. Anything that gets the phrase 'Keating Five' back in the news can't be a good thing for McCain.

In which case, if I were a Republican I would be mightily pissed at McCain's people for delaying the story. If it had run in December, it could have sunk McCain; now, it has the potential to damage the party. We know how many Republicans really don't like McCain. This is a guy who is winning his party's nomination on the strength of a series of 25-30% 'wins' early on--wins he got only because Huckabee was busy knocking out McCain's best-funded rival. If this thing has legs, it could be the Republicans who wind up choosing their nominee at the convention.

Now that's entertainment.