Jonah Goldberg

Of course not. Ah, but sex sells, some will say. Sex is different. Sex gets people all worked up.

That's true, of course, but that's not how the Times claims to operate. There are, alas, no British-tabloid topless "page three girls" in the New York Times.

Then there's the question: Why McCain? After all, somewhat similar allegations about recent Democratic nominees were precisely the sort of thing that the Times scrupulously avoided as trash journalism. And the Times' attitude toward Bill Clinton's various sex scandals was hardly one of unbridled enthusiasm.

During those years, the Gray Lady published many, many articles lamenting the fever of "sexual McCarthyism" in American politics. It seems that such concerns are unwarranted if the subject is a Republican.

But the most curious thing remains that endorsement. The editors of the Times argued that the best Republican in the field was John McCain. Those same editors knew of these allegations. They clearly did not think such innuendo was important enough for them to hedge their support for the Arizona senator.

Of course, these very liberal editors were offering merely a nominal endorsement of the least objectionable Republican by their lights. This is a very loaded grading system, akin to designation as the best Oktoberfest in Orlando.

But still, McCain was their choice, even though they knew of these allegations and, given what we know about what went on behind the scenes, believed they were true.

Presumably the argument went something like this. There's no direct proof that the sexual relationship ever existed and, even if it did, marital infidelity isn't our business. And besides, if true, the underlying implied impropriety - writing a routine letter to the FCC - is hardly a serious transgression. McCain could have done this for plenty of reasons, including because he thought it was the right the thing to do. In short, his overall qualifications dwarf the allegations in this story.

Assuming I'm right, it's telling that this was a strong enough argument for picking McCain as "the best choice for the party's presidential nomination," but nowhere near strong enough to prevent the Times from using the same information to destroy that same Republican once he'd all but sewed up the nomination.

It's an interesting double standard, no?

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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