In a February 23 article, The Washington Post quoted a fundraising letter from Sen. John McCain's campaign asserting that "[o]bjective observers are viewing" a February 21 New York Times article about McCain's relationship with a telecommunications lobbyist "as a sleazy smear attack from a liberal newspaper against the conservative Republican frontrunner." The Post did not note, however, that one of the "[o]bjective observers" quoted in the email was none other than Robert Bennett -- an attorney hired by McCain specifically to deal with issues related to the Times' reporting.
In addition to Bennett, two of the three other "[o]bjective observers" listed by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis in the letter were conservative Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Republican Congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough (FL).
From Davis' February 21 letter:
John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has led the charge to limit the money and influence of the special interests in politics and stomp out corruption. His life and his record prove just how preposterous the smear by the New York Times really is.
Objective observers are viewing this article exactly as they should - as a sleazy smear attack from a liberal newspaper against the conservative Republican frontrunner. Sean Hannity said, after reading the article three times, "It was so full of innuendo and so lacking of fact, and so involved in smear, I came to the conclusion that the goal here was to bring up a 20-year-old scandal." Washington attorney Bob Bennett, who was the Democrat counsel during the Keating investigation, said, "This is a real hit job." Joe Scarborough called the allegations "outrageous." Even pundit Alan Colmes -- not known for his conservative leanings -- concludes "this is a non-story."
From the February 23 Washington Post article:
Both McCain's campaign and the RNC sent e-mails Thursday seeking to capitalize on conservative distaste for the Times and the media in general.
"We will not allow their scurrilous attack against a great American hero to stand," proclaimed the message sent by campaign manager Rick Davis. "Objective observers are viewing this article exactly as they should -- as a sleazy smear attack from a liberal newspaper against the conservative Republican front-runner."
Fundraising experts said yesterday that the outpouring is understandable. "Outrage opens the pocketbooks," said Philip A. Musser, a GOP strategist with national finance experience. Musser said conventional wisdom once held that bad news on the trail would dry up the flow of money to a candidate. But this year, the opposite has been true. One of Sen. Barack Obama's best fundraising efforts came the day after he lost in New Hampshire. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had her best stretch of fundraising after announcing that her campaign was in financial trouble.