Can the straight-talk express talk its way out of this one?

mccain.jpgThe story everyone is talking about today is the New York Times’ exposé, “For McCain, Self-confidence on Ethics Poses its Own Risk,” about John McCain’s relationship with telecom lobbyist Vicki Iseman. As of this writing, the story had more than 2,100 posted comments. When it comes down to it though, the fallout is pretty predictable: His critics are holding the story up as more evidence that McCain is a little sanctimonious when he speaks out about ethics, while his supporters are writing it off as another unsubstantiated smear campaign by the left-wing media.

Here’s some reaction from the Blogosphere:

I wonder if Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo made a Freudian slip here when he writes, “We know that the McCain Camp went to the mattresses to get this story spiked back in December.” Somehow, I don’t think so.

Marshall also picks up on the WaPo’s immediate follow to the story in this morning’s paper (the NYT broke the story last night on the web).

The Post did a quick follow up in the wake of the Times piece. But the emphasis is significantly different — suggesting the ‘concern’ on the part of the McCain staff was not so much about a potential affair but rather having McCain too close to a lobbyist while running a reformist insurgent presidential campaign, a suggestion that strikes me as rather dubious. (Note the role of John Weaver in the Post story and possibly in the Times story too. Weaver is a key figure in McCain’s turn toward reformism and then turn back away from it.)

Many folks who read the McCain piece were speculating that the NYT’s lawyers must have cut out some of the more interesting details. Matt Cooper at Portfolio.com writes:

It’s a weird piece–strangely unsatisfying and it hardly puts McCain’s ethics in much of a context. At bottom, there’s no sign that McCain actually did anything for the woman and her clients that he would have done anyway given his positions on a variety of telecom issues. He didn’t bend principle for her, so far as I can tell.

Of course, The New Republic professes to have “the story behind the story.”

Yet to be seen is whether this story has legs or whether it’s a distant memory come November.