Whither Cindy’s pride now?

How proud is Cindy McCain of this?

WASHINGTON — 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, in his offices and aboard 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 clients, 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.

Here's the thing: the NYT is not the Weekly World News. They don't run this kind of a report about a presidential candidate without the report an anal cavity search first (especially after Jayson Blair and Judy Miller they don't).

As much as Falafel O'Reilly would like to keep using the word "lynching" in connection with Michelle Obama, I think that ginned up story about that particular potential first lady just got eclipsed. We can only hope the McCain campaign keeps issues blanket denials like this one:

"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."

Uh, sorry, guys. He was one of the Keating Five. He, by his own admission, violated the public trust puh-lenty. And flying around on a lobbyist's corporate jet is a long long way from the straight talk express.

I don't see this story going away.