As I noted in my prior post, Bumiller's apparently impertinent question to McCain followed from the impression of journalists that McCain might have given them more information about the attempts by John Kerry to get him to consider running on the Democratic ticket for vice president.
It's worth going to the Bumiller story for her explanation.
In May 2004, in an article in The Times about prominent Democrats who wanted Mr. McCain to be Mr. Kerry’s running mate, Mr. McCain was asked by the paper whether he had ever discussed the offer of the vice-presidential spot, even casually, with Mr. Kerry. He paused for a moment and said, “No, we really haven’t.”
An article in June 2004 in The Times reported that Mr. Kerry made his first direct overtures to Mr. McCain about the vice-presidential spot about three weeks after he had locked up the Democratic nomination that March, according to a person who had discussed the matter with the two senators.
Since 2004, senior aides to Mr. McCain have readily discussed Mr. McCain’s conversations with Mr. Kerry about the No. 2 spot, but Mr. McCain has himself rarely talked about those conversations publicly. For that reason, his reply to the question at the public forum in Atlanta stood out.
"(H)is rely to the question at the public forum in Atlanta" is apparently the one from the third graph in the Bumiller story:
"So when I was approached, when we had that conversation back in 2004, that’s why I never even considered such a thing.”I suppose it was the pronoun "we," that sent Bumiller into Perry Mason mode.
Bumiller went to the May 2004 Times, and I've reproduced the key portion of that story:
If Mr. McCain is offered the vice-presidential spot, people close to Mr. Kerry say, the request will come from the candidate himself and not through the campaign's vice-presidential vetting process.
Asked if Senator Kerry had made such an offer, Mr. McCain said no without hesitation. But asked if the two men had ever discussed it, even casually, he paused for a moment.
"No," he said finally. "We really haven't."
(The New York Times, May 15, 2004)
Recall the way Bumiller presented her questioning of McCain and you'll see the problem with relying on McCain's answer as an assurance that he never discussed the vice presidency issue with Kerry. Did the original question refer to the causal discussion of a Kerry offer of the veep slot? Or the way Bumiller apparently took it, to indicate that the two never even discussed whether or not McCain was interested?Without the question, verbatim, you won't have the answer. And not even necessarily if you have the question in its original form, since the asker and the askee might take the question two different ways. Bumiller was playing Perry Mason based on an ambiguity.
Here is the other Times story Bumiller referenced:
Mr. Kerry, the Massachusetts senator, made his first direct overtures to Mr. McCain about three weeks after locking up the Democratic nomination in March and approached him again, in person or by telephone, as many as seven times, as recently as last week, according to one person who has discussed the issue with both.
''It was always artfully phrased, but he asked him on several occasions to serve as his running mate,'' the individual said. ''He'd say, 'I don't want to formally ask because I don't want to be formally rejected, but having said that, would you do it?' or 'I need you to do it,' or 'I want you to do it.' ''
''It was always phrased in such a way as to give both men plausible deniability,'' the individual added.
(The New York Times, June 12, 2004)
But apparently not phrased in such a way to discourage the conclusion that McCain never perceived an offer of the vice presidency as such, at least in Bumiller's mind.McCain was right to mention the context and circumstances rather than attempt to address Bumiller's question/statement as it stood. Facts are routinely twisted in the news. Quotations are rearranged to accommodate the structure and flow of the story, and (as seen in the Bumiller story), reporters at times misleadingly present the question asked of the source.