In a nutshell:
Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.
That’s just the lead. The rest of the piece is an exploration of the candidate’s mores, the way his self-confidence on ethics can lead him into potential gaffes.
So why did the piece, so long in the making, only surface now?
McCain-campaign staffers told Politico and Time that the Times ran with it because The New Republic was planning a piece for Monday’s editions about the internal divisions in the Times newsroom over printing the story. The New Republic said last night that their piece–written by Observer alumnus Gabe Sherman–would run today.
Meanwhile, Radar‘s Charlie Kaiser is reporting that the Times rushed its story because other rival publications—Newsweek and Politco—began pursuing it as well. Kaiser also says that Times reporter Marc Santora left the McCain beat because of the Senator’s unhappiness with the Times (he says that this is previously reported, but I’m not sure where).
In the Times story itself, it is mentioned that Mr. McCain called Bill Keller to "complain" about the story and then gave him a useable quote: "I have never betrayed the public trust by doing anything like that."