THE SCANDAL NO ONE IS SUPPOSED TO MENTION…. It seems reasonable to think that if a politician is involved in a major scandal, gets admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee, and then runs for president on a “reform” platform, there’d be some scrutiny of the politicians role in the controversy. And yet, the words “Keating Five” seem to off limits in most political/media circles.

Yesterday, after an odd conference call in which the McCain campaign tried to pick a fight with the New York Times, the Obama campaign noted that the Times had published dozens of items about Obama, his life, his religion, his childhood, his politics, his time in the state senate, his time in the U.S. Senate, his family, his religion, his friends, his fundraising, and all other manner of associations. The campaign also noted that the Times has run exactly zero items about “the last major financial regulatory crisis, resulting in a huge bailout, and which John McCain was centrally involved in with his political godfather Charles Keating.”

Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter explained this very well last night on MSNBC’s “Countdown.”

“[Y]ou remember the Keating Five scandal that he was a part of, which, by the way, it’s crazy but there’s been very little about it in the press in the last few weeks,” Alter said. “And McCain thinks he’s getting a hard time, he’s really getting a free ride on the fact that he was in the middle of the last great financial scandal in our country. But his reaction to that, you would have thought, would have been more regulation of the financial services industry. Instead he moved forward on campaign finance reform after being caught in that scandal, but did nothing — nothing — to try to prevent another savings and loan crisis from happening down the road. He was missing in action when it came to even learning the basic lessons of a scandal that he said taught him all kinds of things that he would never forget.”

I suspect editors at the major news outlets would say they’re blowing off McCain’s role in the Keating Five scandal because it’s a 20-year-old story. It’s a fair, but incomplete, point.

The story may be old, but it’s recently become surprisingly relevant to current events — we are, after all, talking about a scandal involving major bank failures, financial fraud and greed, and political ineptitude. Sound familiar? For that matter, McCain is running with a message about his ability to “reform” both DC and Wall Street, so it’s hardly unreasonable for reporters to compare McCain’s platform to McCain’s record.

As Josh Marshall concluded, “Let’s face it. On major economy-imperiling financial scandals brought about by lax regulation and help from lobbyist-encrusted politicians, McCain really is the candidate of experience.”

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.