Michael Kinsley has written a hilarious take on the New York Times story about John McCain: McCain and the Times: The Real Questions. A sample:
Many readers of last week’s New York Times article about McCain, including me, read that article as suggesting that Sen. McCain may have had an affair with a lobbyist eight years ago. The Times, however, has made clear that its story was not about an affair with a lobbyist. Its story was about the possibility that eight years ago, aides to McCain had held meetings with McCain to warn him about the appearance that he might be having an affair with the lobbyist.
This is obviously a much more important question. To be absolutely clear: the Times itself was not suggesting that there had been an affair, or even that there had been the appearance of an affair. The Times was reporting that there was a time eight years ago when some people felt there might be the appearance of an affair, although others, apparently including Sen. McCain himself, apparently felt that there was no such appearance.
Similarly, I am not accusing the New York Times of screwing up again by publishing an insufficiently sourced article then defending itself with a preposterous assertion that it wasn’t trying to imply what it obviously was trying to imply. I am merely reporting that some people worry that other people might be concerned that the New York Times has created the appearance of screwing up once again.
What I wrote was that some people had expressed concern that the Times article might have created the appearance of charging that McCain had had an affair. My critics have charged that I was charging the Times with charging McCain with having had an affair. Such a charge would be unfair to the New York Times, since the Times article, if you read it carefully (very carefully), does not make any charge against McCain except that people in a meeting eight years ago had suggested that other people eight years ago might reach a conclusion — about which the Times expressed no view whatsoever — that McCain was having an affair.
The piece goes on and on, creating level after level of possibilities of appearances.