The obvious culprit is Mike Huckabee, but he’s still just so damned likable (when he’s not comparing his primary travails to being waterboarded), it doesn’t seem like it’s in his wiring. That doesn’t mean he didn’t call in a few chits from Jesus, but Jesus would never leak to a godless liberal rag like The New York Times.
Rush Limbaugh? Well, that would be a coup indeed. I know for years everyone has suspected a secret friendship between Rush and Frank Rich, but Limbaugh’s timing is better than that. If he didn’t have the goods to plant the story when the race was still in play, he’s certainly not going to pull the trigger until he’s browbeat McCain into picking Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal as his running mate, and the campaign would have no choice but to turn to the other name on the ticket to mount a challenge to Obama, who will by September have been sufficiently swiftboated into vulnerability by any fresh Republican face other than McCain. Stirring the pot is the revelation that this story was first floated in December by noted turd-lobber Matt Drudge–at a time when the GOP was already quaking at the prospect of McCain rising from the dead and pre-favored Reaganmites Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney fading like an Earl Scheib paint job.
Another possibility that occurred to me was collusion between one of the disgruntled former McCain aides cited in the article, and some dissident elements within Pfizer and their ad agency McCann Erickson, in a long-view effort to eventually snare the fairly-recently virile McCain as a Viagra flack. The only piece of that puzzle I couldn’t put together was what the McCain aide stood to gain with this alliance, besides a dufflebag of Viagra samples.
It’s a curious time in the election cycle for a Presidential sex scandal. Sure, Bill Clinton had what Mary Matalin tagged one of his most famous “bimbo eruptions” in the dark, short days of winter, but that was in the heat of a primary and he still had Paul Tsongas and Jerry Brown in his way. It’s even more curious that it’s not entirely clear what the Times is suggesting was the nature of the relationship. The timing is curious to say the least–curious in the sense that it really doesn’t on its face appear to benefit anyone at this point.
Or does it? When the onion is peeled on this whole sordid if somewhat flaccid, for lack of a better word, suggestion of a sexual or influential tryst between John McCain and a 40-year-old Washington lobbyist during his 2000 Presidential run, somewhere we’re going to find the fingerprints of the one man who has the most to gain and whose campaign is still hanging in suspicious suspension with the second-most pledged delegates of any Republican: one Willard Mitt Romney.
It took one final nudge of some kind for the Times to feel they had enough corroboration to move ahead with this still-rickety story, and Romney’s money and press connections would have just enough juice to produce an at least somewhat credible witness or a rabid Romneyite Republican insider willing to lie on deep background in a desperate attempt to plant that suitcase bomb that will fatally rip the McCain campaign to pieces before he reaches that magic 1,191 delegate number, and open the field for a white knight to ride in and save the day and coddle the wounded.
CLOSE BUT NO CIGAR: Unlike the Clinton sex scandals, though, this McCain flare-up–and again, is it a sex scandal that the maddeningly vague Timesarticle is alluding to?–is lacking any smoking gun and the biggest mystery is why the New York Times would go ahead on a watery gruel of evidence that would even give the National Enquirer pause.
The Tinfoil Hat Award among the punditocracy goes to MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan, who suggests that the Times had enough to run with the story on December 20, but deliberately it up with the New Hampshire primary approaching, and thus played kingmaker, handing the Republican Presidential nomination to John McCain.
In any case, McCain is stepping forward this morning with an across-the-board denial. It seems to be clear to even those who want this to be true that there really doesn’t appear to be much there there. This will be in the news cycles for the next few weeks as the story behind the story becomes the story.
I’m still sticking with my Romney angle, and so far I’m the only one I’ve heard suggest it. So just remember when it comes time for me to say I told you so that you read it here first.
Vicki Iseman’s voicemail box, meanwhile, is already filling up with messages from Playboy.
The Nader Nadir