Outsourced to Greg Sargent:
Horses Mouth February 21, 2008 10:45 AM: The gist of [the New York Times story held since December and released today] seems to be that according to anonymous sources, eight years ago McCain's aides intervened in a relationship between him and a female lobbyist that may or may not have been sexual, and may or may not have constituted improper influence peddling, because they were worried that something untoward might be happening and were concerned about what her appearances with him in public looked like.
This is basically the core allegation....
The suggestion that the relationship might have been sexual, which is made at the top and towards the end of the story, basically amounts to an allegation that anonymous sources said there was concern that the relationship might have become romantic. Anonymous sources say McCain acknowledged behaving "inappropriately," but the story doesn't say how....
To be clear, there very well may be much more to the story that is yet unknown. As Josh wrote last night, the story reads as if it had the meat lawyered out of it, and it's perfectly possible that The Times went with this because it knew lots more that it couldn't report. And as Mark Kleiman notes, more reporting by the AP is showing that there may be some meat to the lobbying side of the story.
But if you merely evaluate the words that are on the page of The Times... you can't help but conclude, as Matthew Yglesias did, that they just didn't have or couldn't share the goods on an alleged romantic relationship and thus shouldn't have gone there.
Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?