Honeymoon Over For McCain

When John McCain ran for president in 2000 his "Straight Talk Express" bus came to be considered home territory for members of the media. This careful cultivation of various reporters has paid excellent dividends for the Senator; he's always enjoyed good press coverage. This seems to be ending now that he is on the verge of getting the GOP nomination.

The New York Times began the assault this week with a story containing vague, anonymous allegations of a relationship between McCain and a much younger female lobbyist. McCain quickly denied the charges. Many of the same conservatives who were attacking McCain just a few weeks ago leaped to his defense.

I have no problem believing that the New York Times is out to get Senator McCain. Nothing personal, of course; they would do the same to any other Republican. I think the campaign was surprised because they thought the had the media on their side, or at least neutralized. That notion should now be out of their minds. Every word McCain ever said is going to be scrutinized in every possible way between now and November. He's in the big leagues now.

While this particular story appears to be groundless, I think it's resonating because the charges are consistent with McCain's past. Recall that he divorced his first wife - the one who stood by him while he was a POW and almost died while he was gone - in order to marry his much younger current wife, who was herself one of a long line of extramarital affairs. This is well-known and McCain himself has admitted it. So when someone says he seems to be getting a little too close to an attractive young woman, people don't immediately dismiss the possibility.

Is it wrong to bring up these facts? I don't think so. McCain and his supporters want to talk about the honorable things he did in his younger days as reason that he should now be president. That's fine, but if he did dishonorable things back then, those events are relevant as well. He can't have it both ways. Call me old-fashioned, but I think the way a man treats his wife and family says a lot about his character - and his character is one of the things we as voters need to consider.

Likewise, when you build a public image out of cleaning up Washington and taking the money out of politics, then surround yourself with lobbyists and ex-lobbyists, it should be no surprise when people say there is something wrong with the picture.

Now that the dam is broken, the next phase begins. McCain is going to get the full treatment from the media. To some degree this is helpful; he's already using it as a fundraising tool. I still think it won't matter, though. Get ready for President Obama.

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