If the McCain campaign says, on the record and before the national press, that the New York Times is not a legitimate news organization, or a journalistic enterprise at all, but a political action committee working for Obama (and that is what Steve Schmidt said to reporters; listen to it...) then why does the Times have to treat the McCain crew as a "normal" campaign organization, rather than a bunch of rogue operators willing to say absolutely anything to gain power and lie to the nation once in office?The first step is to recognize that Schmidt's assertion is illegitimate and let the argument stop there. It's part of Schmidt's strategy to label all news outlets as having partisan bias. Unless the New York Times got the facts wrong, and it didn't, then the paper shouldn't take any action.
Indeed, in taking action the New York Times would play into Schmidt's hands. Recognizing what is bait and not swallowing it is a tactic employed by most good journalists. There is no smart way to argue your legitimacy - just as there's no smart way to explain when you stopped beating your wife. Times Editor Bill Keller's response to Howard Kurtz seems sufficient.
Here's a question of my own: Is it a good idea for members of the media to declare what constitutes a legitimate political ad?