Conservatives were fond of saying during the Clinton years that what is important is "character". Liberals, however, like to say the opposite. For this reason, it is unsurprising that the Times story which makes insinuations (which I strongly suspect are true, but are not substantiated) about a McCain affair has not gained much traction on the left (it appears lefty bloggers are also sitting this one out).
This is unsurprising. No one forgets the "Sexual McCarthyism" of the Starr Report (indeed this is one of the first political events I remember) and ugly politics of personal destruction levelled at Bill Clinton. We realize that it would be the height of hypocrisy to attack John McCain.
This may paradoxically get John McCain off of the hook. The most damaging part of this is not rumors of an affair, but the influence pedaling. John McCain may be literally in bed with a lobbyist, but he is clearly figuratively in bed with plenty of lobbyists.
It still remains to be seen whether yesterday's New York Times piece will be the last word on John McCain's relationship with Vicki Iseman. For now, the Times quoted anonymous aides saying that they'd suspected there was an affair ongoing; McCain denies that there was.
But remember that the Times piece ran under the memorably lame headline, "For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk." There's a broader point there. Set aside the issue of the nature of his relationship with Iseman, and you have the undeniable conflict of McCain, the chest-beating reformer, being so undeniably close to lobbyists. That, many have pointed out, is the real story. The man who's absurdly proclaimed that "I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to" is surrounded by lobbyists.
Please, let's not let the real story get lost in the fluff.