UPDATE: The conservative American Spectator says the NYT had this story over a month ago but McCain threatened to sue them. If the Times if running with the story now, after holding off for 5 weeks, it means they nailed it with more witnesses. Actually, this goes back two months.
UDPATE: McCain refuses to deny an affair or that his staff had to intervene.
Tonight, the New York Times posted a blockbuster article about the relationship between Senator John McCain and a female lobbyist nearly half his age. As you can see from the photo above, this has become the breaking news sensation on cable news.
The full article warrants a read. But for me, the excerpts about the intervention of McCain’s staff are just fascinating, and disturbing:
Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, in his offices and aboard a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity….
Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.
The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain’s commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.
Mr. Black said Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman were friends and nothing more. But in 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, “Why is she always around?”
That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator’s advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.
A former campaign adviser described being instructed to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a Senate aide recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman’s access to his offices.
In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.
Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.
This is a story that will probably “have legs.” It is about ethics, it is about adultery (an issue the religious right claims to take seriously), and let’s not forget that John McCain left his first wife, after she was seriously injured, so he could be with his second wife, 17 years his junior. Interesting that it broke the same week the McCain campaign chose to thrust Mrs. McCain into the spotlight to attack Michelle Obama.