Rapid Response Counterattack

McCain turns tables on Times. An interesting read about how the McCain forces jumped all over the Times the other day. This is standard procedure, of course, but it really depends on how well you execute (and that execution always makes interesting reading) and if your enemy responds in kind. Politicians know that in terms of public perception you can absolutely influence by going negative, hitting hard, using overwhelming force, and yelling with extreme language. The purpose is to intimidate. If the other side counters, well, then you have a brawl. If they hesitate, though, you've got them. That's the critical part that comes through in this article. The Times found itself responding to its own article and responding late. Now, this is politics so truth is not really that important, and I have no opinion about the substance of the article or the counter attack (nor do I particularly care about either). What I find fascinating, though, is the dynamic of influence and how large organizations of people can be rapidly moved to action. What are the techniques? What foundational work is necessary beforehand so a message resonates? Anyway, the LA Times talks about some of this, too: McCain story proves incendiary among journalists, conservatives
Comments:

Well, in this case I think it's relatively easy to determine what is most likely to be the truth.

McCain's then and now senior aides, the ones who would have done any intervention, claim they didn't, and never knew of such interventions, and the one who did talk to the lobbyist denies the NYT story. Meanwhile the NYT's sources are anonymous. And the NYT now claims that the sexual aspect of the story is not the main issue but the favor done by McCain, but I'm not sure that the favor (asking the FCC to expedite resolution of some issue, but not asking for a specific result) can be seen as scandalous, even if the beneficiary wasn't in McCain's homestate.

So, so far the NYT comes off looking bad, and that's because the story is weak, and the NYT has been backpedaling to boot (not a good sign). The NYT's own ombudsman had heavy criticism for the NYT over this.

So I think the likelyhood is high that the NYT jumped the gun, that they didn't have a solid story, that the sexual allegation is false. The part about the political favor done by McCain appears to be true though, but since it's far from clear that that favor should be considered a scandal, this truth doesn't help the NYT. On top of that the NYT probably had the motive to do this (though this is certainly a subjective matter -- there's no way the editors will 'fess up to wanting to bury McCain).

Posted by Nico on February 26, 2008 at 07:23 PM JST #

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