McCain's "Bitter Partisan Furor" Against Hillary

John McCain when attacking Bush: brave maverick. McCain when attacking Bill & Hillary: bitter partisan blame-spreader

Congressional reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg returns to the front page Wednesday morning with "Instant Fallout For Politicians: Finger-Pointing - Bitter Partisan Furor After Nuclear Claim."

The hook of the story is Sen. John McCain's criticism of former President Clinton (and his wife) on North Korea policy.

Strange: McCain has been critical of President Bush for years, but TimesWatch doesn't remember the Times using thephrase "bitter partisan furor" to describe it.

"North Korea's claim that it detonated a nuclear device rippled through American politics on Tuesday, nowhere more so than at a Shriner's hall in Michigan, where Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican, sought to place the blame on former President Bill Clinton.

"'I would remind Senator Clinton and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure,' Mr. McCain said, referring to his potential rival for the presidency in 2008, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

For not only defending President Bush but criticizing Sen. Hillary Clinton, Stolberg sniffs that "Mr. McCain's attack was part of an increasingly bitter partisan row over who was responsible for allowing North Korea to achieve nuclear ability."

Stolberg'slater language is loaded against Republicans: "Indeed, Mr. Kim, the North Korean leader, seems to have become the latest bogeyman in Republican political imagery. On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee circulated a photograph of Madeleine K. Albright, Mr. Clinton's secretary of state, clinking glasses with Mr. Kim."

Stolberg also notes Democratic attacks on Bush, but leading off with the McCain comment and referencing it later (McCain is also featured in a photo from the Michigan talk in which he "blamed the Clinton administration") makes it seem as if the Times sees partisanship only on McCain's side.

Stolberg sure seems a lot cheerier when McCain is criticizing Bush.