The Times Speaks

THE TIMES SPEAKS....Really, this is unbelievable. Here is New York Times executive editor Bill Keller in an online Q&A declaring himself surprised by both the volume and the lopsidedness of the reaction to Wednesday's John McCain non-affair story:
And, frankly, I was a little surprised by how few readers saw what was, to us, the larger point of the story. Perhaps here, at the outset of this conversation, is a good point to state as clearly as possible our purpose in publishing.

[Blah blah blah]

The point of this "Long Run" installment was that, according to people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation. The story cites several examples, and quotes friends and admirers talking of this apparent contradiction in his character. That is why some members of his staff were so alarmed by the appearance of his relationship with Ms. Iseman. And that, it seemed (and still seems) to us, was something our readers would want to know about a man who aspires to be president.

The "larger point." Right. This is just embarrassing. Everybody with a pulse knows that no one is criticizing the Times for reporting that McCain was doing the bidding of a lobbyist and campaign contributor. Rather, this story has gotten saturation coverage because the Times has been careful to refer to Vicki Iseman as a "female lobbyist" on practically every occasion it can — including the introduction to the very Q&A Keller is taking part in. Times reader aren't children. We all know what this means, and we all know perfectly well that the Times piece loudly insinuated some kind of inappropriate romantic involvement between McCain and Iseman. So far, though, the Q&A has addressed only the peripheral subjects of what "Long Run" pieces are like, what the Times' policy on anonymous sources is, and the Chinese wall between the newsroom and the editorial page staff. Riveting stuff.

And the elephant in the room? Missing in action so far. Do you think they'll ever get to it?