But having said that, there are essentially three possible scenarios that could have occurred, and, in my estimation, all three make the New York Times look bad.
1. The story is true (in the sense that the story accurately reported allegations), but the insinuated allegations are false. Remember, the Times didn't say the allegations were true. What they said was that the allegations had been made.
Remember, it's possible that in the wake of the Lewinski scandal, McCain's aides felt it was important to remove even the appearance of impropriety, so a staffer may have asked this attractive lobbyist to quit being seen so frequently with McCain. This staffer may have even "believed" that something was going on between McCain and the lobbyist. This event taking place, of course, does not mean that McCain did anything wrong.
If this scenario is true, the New York Times is guilty of creating a fire-storm for nothing -- which -- because of the high stakes involved -- is tantamount to screaming "Fire!" in a crowded theater. When "the paper of record" makes allegations about the man who is essentially the GOP nominee for president on the front page of their newspaper, there should be a reasonable expectation that the story is both accurate and relevant. And the fact that they made these allegations without any evidence, based on sources who remain nameless, there credibility is in jeopardy.
2. The story is false. Obviously, if the story if false (which seems to be the case), it's a huge indictment against the New York Times. The sources making the real allegations aren't named, but we do know the sources are former aides. It's very possible that a disgruntled former employee might have an ax to grind. At the very least, if the Times is reporting false allegations it is a shameful example of yellow journalism. It might also show the Times' liberal bias.
3. The story -- and allegations -- are true. If this is the case, then it means the New York Times spiked the story in December (when knowing about it might have meant the GOP nominated a different candidate), endorsed McCain a month later (having known about the scandal), and then -- once McCain was the presumed nominee -- released the story. If this is the case, it would mean the New York Times knowingly helped the GOP pick a flawed candidate. The obvious extension of that would be that the Times helped the Democrats win the General Election.