02/21/2008 12:21 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Political Parietals?

I believe the New York Times story on McCain is irresponsible.

The lede follows this logic:

1. Several McCain advisors believed that he had a romantic relationship with a woman
2. He spent lots of time with that woman, who was a lobbyist
3. Even the appearance of impropriety shows McCain's shaky judgment

There are two stories here -- there was a rumor of romantic attachment, there were problems with ties to lobbyists. By blending them, the New York Times is coming down strongly on the side of political parietals: If you are an older man, in a position of power, don't have close relationships with younger women. Don't go out to dinner with them, like you do with male colleagues. Don't mentor them.

As a technical matter, the Times did not say that the impropriety was that she was a woman, but that she was a lobbyist, but the logical sequence of the story strongly suggested otherwise.

The panicked advisors are not heard giving any evidence that they were romantically involved, and they are portrayed without any skepticism.

You will not find any more anti-lobbying person than me, and I think McCain should rightly be investigated--as should all presidential candidates--for close ties to big money.

But the idea that an older, powerful male had a close relationship with a woman gives the Times license to lead a front page story with eight-year old rumors--never substantiated, apparently--is not good news for gender equality on the job.

We're an adult enough culture, I hope, that we don't need parietals for our political candidates.