Old gray lady kicks American hero in the balls – read all about it. The New York Times, the aforementioned gray dame, hit the streets and the screens last night with a page one splash suggesting that John McCain had been involved in close and personal negotiations with a 32-year-old blonde petite telecoms lobbyist Vicki Iseman, eight years ago. Or to put it more precisely – they reported the concerns of unnamed McCain staffers about the relationship, and the problems it might cause for the Senator in the future, given his determination to run on an anti-lobbyist, anti-corruption campaign.

The Times has had a lead on the story since Christmas, and claims it was holding onto it to try and further nail it down – going to press now only because it was about to be beaten to the punch by centre-right liberal weekly The New Republic. Whether true or not, the timing is, at the very least, provident for Barack Obama – just as the leaders of both parties decisively swing their guns towards each other, loaded with ammunition decrying the special interests and entrenched corruption, McCain's deep involvement with the twilight world of K Street, the lobbyists' row – pretty much inevitable for a professional politician of any duration – comes to the centre of the debate, leaving Obama clear space to present himself as the cleanskin challenger to the power elite.