That metamorphosis from what it once was must have happened awfully fast. McCain granted the paper an interview on the economy less than 24 hours before Schmidt sought to discredit it. McCain was also scheduled to sit down last week with the Times's chief military correspondent, Michael R. Gordon, whom McCain is known to hold in high regard. [...] McCain has made himself accessible to the Times throughout his presidential campaign, giving the paper multiple, in-depth interviews, including a 45-minute conversation with reporters Adam Nagourney and Michael Cooper on July 11, which produced a 1,426-word Sunday feature on the candidate. Earlier in the election cycle, McCain spoke with the Times about his views on the Iraq War, frankly discussing his perspective on the surge with Gordon and Nagourney in April 2007, and telling them: "I have no plan B…I am not guaranteeing that this succeeds…I am just saying that I think it can. I believe it has a good shot." Later in the primary season, after his campaign was left for dead in the summer of 2007, McCain turned to the Times for a biting interview that took aim at his top rivals for the nomination. In a September conversation with Cooper, McCain lashed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for their lack of foreign policy credentials, saying of Giuliani: "I know of nothing in his background that indicates that he has any experience in it, with him or Romney.' His campaign also took a shine to reporter Marc Santora, who covered the McCain team for four and a half months before leaving the beat in January. McCain's positive view of the Times has also stemmed from personal friendships. In a September 17 posting on his Vanity Fair blog, Purdum detailed the close personal relationship between McCain and legendary Timesman R.W. Apple, whose "best friend in national politics was John McCain," according to Purdum.