John McCain (via Steve Schmidt) v. New York Times

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Political convention holds that campaign operatives fight wars with reporters mostly in private–over tense drinks, in nasty emails, during expletive-laden phone calls, or from sneering looks on the campaign bus or plane. The McCain campaign, like other campaigns, does all that. But it has also long made public spats with networks, reporters and publications a part of its public face.

About an hour ago, Steve Schmidt turned this public shaming up a notch by condemning the New York Times, easily the most influential newspaper in America, as a partisan rag in unusually blunt and categorical language.

“Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization,” Schmidt announced on a well attended conference call. “This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate.”

Schmidt’s specific complaints seemed to center not just on today’s story about the past relationship between McCain campaign manager Rick Davis and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but what Schmidt characterized as an unwillingness by the paper to do the same level of vetting and investigation of Barack Obama as it has done of John McCain. “You are not going to read this on the front page of the New York Times, but the Obama campaign is surrounded by people who” have been involved in the lobbying business. On the same call, Davis said that the Times writes about him so much that there must be some “Davis envy going on.”

This may be a nifty bit of misdirection. It may be a legitimate complaint. It may be a play to rile up the Republican base. (One of the McCain campaign’s best fund-raising days of the spring came the day after the New York Times suggested–without definitive evidence–that McCain had an inappropriate relationship with a a lady lobbyist.) Whatever it is, it’s certainly will get the talkers talking, which is most definitely Schmidt’s intent.

UPDATE: Here is the audio of most the exchange about the New York Times, thanks to TPM.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Obama campaign is taking exception to Schmidt’s take on the Times:

# of probing stories the NY Times has written over the course of the campaign about Barack Obama, his life, his religion, his childhood, his politics, his time in the state senate, his time in the U.S. Senate, his family, his religion, his friends, his fundraising and all other manner of associations: more than 40 (see below)

# of stories the NY Times has written over the course of the campaign about the last major financial regulatory crisis, resulting in a huge bailout, and which John McCain was centrally involved in with his political godfather Charles Keating: 0

More from the Obama response after the jump.

In Law School, Obama Found Political Voice [New York Times , 1/28/07]
So Far, Obama Can’t Take Black Vote For Granted [New York Times , 2/2/07]
Obama Had Slaveowning Kin [New York Times , 3/3/07]
Disinvitation by Obama Is Criticized [New York Times , 3/6/07]
Obama, in Brief Investing Foray In ’05, Took Same Path as Donors [New York Times , 3/7/07]
Obama Says His Investments Presented No Conflicts of Interest [New York Times , 3/8/07]
Charisma and a Search for Self In Obama’s Hawaii Childhood [New York Times , 3/17/07]
Clinton Camp Challenges Obama on Iraq. [New York Times , 3/22/07]
After 2000 Loss, Obama Built Donor Network From Roots Up [New York Times , 4/3/07]
A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith [New York Times , 4/30/07]
An Obama Patron and Friend Until an Indictment in Illinois [New York Times , 6/14/07]
In Illinois, Obama Proved Pragmatic and Shrewd. [New York Times , 7/30/07]
In 2000, a Streetwise Veteran Schooled a Bold Young Obama. [New York Times , 9/9/07]
Loyal Network Backs Obama After His Help. [New York Times , 10/1/07]
Obama’s Account of New York Years Often Differs From What Others Say. [New York Times , 10/30/07]
It’s Not Just ‘Ayes’ and ‘Nays’: Obama’s Votes in Illinois Echo. [New York Times , 12/20/07]
Nuclear Leaks and Response Tested Obama in Senate [New York Times , 2/3/08]
Daschle Uses Senate Ties To Blaze Path for Obama [New York Times , 2/5/08]
Old Friends Say Drugs Played Bit Part in Obama’s Young Life [New York Times , 2/9/08]
Seeking Unity, Obama Feels Pull of Racial Divide [New York Times , 2/12/08]
Obama Walks a Difficult Path as He Courts Jewish Voters [New York Times , 3/1/08]
Obama in Senate: Star Power, Minor Role [New York Times , 3/9/08]
A Free-Spirited Wanderer Who Set Obama’s Path [New York Times , 3/14/08]
Pastor Defends His Predecessor at Obama’s Chicago Church [New York Times , 3/17/08]
Obama’s Narrator [New York Times , 4/1/07]
Wright Remains a Concern for Some Democrats [New York Times , 5/1/08]
A Strained Wright-Obama Bond Finally Snaps [New York Times , 5/1/08]
A Pulpit-and-Pews Gulf on Obama’s Ex-Pastor [New York Times , 5/2/08]
A Fiery Theology Under Fire [New York Times , 5/4/08]
Obama Secret Service Agent Tied To Sex Joke [New York Times , 5/15/08]
The Story of Obama, Written by Obama [New York Times , 5/18/08]
Following Months of Criticism, Obama Quits His Church [New York Times , 6/1/08]
Many Blacks Find Joy in Unexpected Breakthrough [New York TImes , 6/5/08]
Where Whites Draw The Line [New York Times , 6/8/08]
Obama’s Organizing Years, Guiding Others and Finding Himself [New York Times , 7/7/08]
§ As a Professor, Obama Enthralled Students and Puzzled Faculty [New York Times , 7/30/08]

§ Delicate Obama Path on Class and Race Preferences [New York Times , 8/3/08]

§ Big Donors, Too, Have Seats at Obama Fundraising Table [New York Times , 8/6/08]

§ Is Obama the End of Black Politics? [New York Times , 8/10/08]
Obama’s 2003 Stand on Abortion Draws New Criticism in 2008 [New York Times , 8/20/08]
Obama Aides Defend Bank’s Pay to Biden Son [New York Times , 8/25/08]
Once a Convention Outsider, Obama Navigated a Path to the Marquee [New York Times , 8/27/08]
Obama Looks to Lessons From Chicago in His National Education Plan [New York Times , 9/10/08]