The political news has been dominated by the NYT story examining John McCain's possible relationship with a female lobbyist eight years ago. The AP describes McCain denouncing the story as a "hit and smear campaign" while the Times "stood its ground." Conservative pundits have of course noticed how selective the Times is when reporting on the decade-old possible affairs of political figures based on circumstantial evidence. But why should the public expect fairness and even-handedness from the NYT?
Any reader who picks up the Independent or the Guardian has no illusions about the "fairness" of those newspapers. They are out and out shills for a certain point of view and therefore anything contained therein is mentally adjusted accordingly. Some publications in America make no attempt to hide their ideological point of view. The National Review, for example, describes itself as "America's most widely read and influential magazine and web site for Republican/conservative news, commentary, and opinion." If you want liberal opinion, go elsewhere; and if the NYT described itself as 'America's flagship publication for liberal causes and the Democratic Party' nobody would be shocked if it ran a "hit and smear campaign" on John McCain. We would expect it to ignore any scandal to do with William Jefferson Clinton. We would expect it to be the biased publication that it is.
Much of the outrage comes from the fact that the NYT pretends to be the 'newspaper of record'; that it prints all the news that's fit to print; is somehow a pre-eminent member of that unelected fourth branch of government, the Mainstream Media instead of being what it really is: partisan for a certain point of view.
And what's wrong with partisanship so long as it's announced on the masthead the way cans of Drano are labeled as containing corrosives?
The sooner newspapers and networks are freed from the need to appear "fair" the freer the press will become. Then both conservatives and liberal can get up on their soapboxes under the full moon and howl for blood and gristle.
Of course this transformation must come at the price of admitting that journalism isn't the high-minded profession depicted in All the President's Men: that it's a job as sordid and as noble as any other; or rather it is only as noble and fair as the individual journalist makes it.
Thus the question of whether John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist eight years ago comes to two things: is the NYT telling the truth today? And if so, would I care?