Thursday, February 21, 2008

NY Times Slams McCain - Alleges "Inappropriate" Relationship With Lobbyist

Not having anything better to do, the NY Times' Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick, and Stephen Labaton have spent the last few days researching and resurrecting an 8 year old story about a relationship that everyone involved denies and tying it back into the Keating 5 scandal. As far as smears goes this would be a good one except they can't quite drive the nail home on the alleged infidelity so it loses some ooomph.

WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

It is actually stunning how smooth this is.

The Keating 5 scandal was a black eye not just for John McCain, but for the Senate as a whole and three senators lost their seats over it; The scandal also directly lead to the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform bill. one of the major areas target for criticism by conservative pundits such as Rush Limbaugh (and honestly I think it's a crap law also), but if the NY Times only focused on it they would have had to write a headline on the order of "Senator once bitten by ethics scandal now pursues a 'Mr. Clean' image" or something equally insipid.

How do they avoid that?

Well like all good reporters they invent a scandal. By tying a "suspected" extra-marital affair in they can say, "Look at this guy! He was burned by ethics charges in the 90's and says he has reformed but now he is cheating on his wife with a lobbyist. How can we trust him?" They don't even have to offer any proof, and they don't, they just say that even the allegation raises questions and it should be investigated.

This was the same justification used to smear Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill testimony, but of course it is the exact opposite of the position taken during the Lewinsky scandal when it was argued that sex, even between the aged "most powerful man" in the world and a twenty-something intern in his office, was a private matter.

Maybe because they were aware of the inherent dichotomy of the NY Times' positions the reporters manage to slip in one more barb - McCain isn't living up to the requirements of McCain-Feingold; He has lobbyists working for his campaign. So do the other candidates but this is different, it's McCain.

Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The implication is obvious McCain is being bought off.

And there you have it a smear orchestrated by the "Newspaper of Record" for the purpose of destroying a political campaign. The funny thing is the NY Times didn't need to do this. Ethics reform is a campaign issue for Obama and McCain and they could have brought up the Keating 5 in that context and had the desired result without being so heavy handed and obvious about it. This story may actually have the opposite effect and drive more dirty corrupt Republicans like me into the McCain camp. I mean this makes it obvious he is one of us.

NcCain's response here.

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