Friday, February 22, 2008

Kind of a rough couple of days for The Maverick, huh? First the Times publishes a lengthy piece exposing his tawdry affair close relationship with a foxy she-lobbyist:

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.
McCain immediately (and furiously) issues an emphatic denial, which the Times dutifully prints, but the cat's out of the bag, the genie's out of the bottle, the Pandora's box is open, and they're all off to the races. Or something. (And to be fair to McCain, the sum total of the evidence in the original Times story -- the semi-implied romantic relationship part of it, anyway -- is about 80% rumor and 20% innuendo. There probably aren't a lot of people who read the story and came away thinking that McCain actually had an affair with this woman.)

So anyway, later that same day, the Post publishes its own version of that same story.
John Weaver, who was McCain's closest confidant until leaving his current campaign last year, said he met with Vicki Iseman at the Center Cafe at Union Station [in 1999] and urged her to stay away from McCain. Association with a lobbyist would undermine his image as an opponent of special interests, aides had concluded.
And then today, the Post comes out with a follow-up, saying explicitly what the other two pieces left as a subplot: for an anti-lobbying crusader, McCain sure does have a lot of interaction with lobbyists.
But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.
(Paul Kiel pointed out that McCain probably just keeps all those lobbyists around to test his fortitude.)

Interestingly, though ("insanely"? "bizarrely"?), the whole kerfuffle may have actually helped him with the fake Christian crowd. For one thing, as Wonkette pointed out, a lot of those folks are just impressed that he had "the good taste to conduct a heterosexual extramarital affair." For another thing, it's apparently united the whole talk radio bloc against the dastardly Liberal Media, which is once again destroying the world, one government-sponsored abortion at a time (and which is defined, obviously, as "any newspaper, magazine, website, or television channel without an explicitly conservative bent"). I've cynically believed for a long time that the whole "conservatives hate McCain" business was total bunk, and that it was just a matter of time before they came around and remembered what a swell guy he was. But I was quite sure it wouldn't happen until at least August, so this [temporary?] d├ętente has kind of caught me off-guard.

Update: The Times has taken a lot of heat for its story (4,000 letters and emails in the last 48 hours alone), prompting Bill Keller and the various editors and reporters who worked on the story to defend themselves in FAQ form. It's an enlightening read, if you have a spare... hour. Here's the crux, though:
The point of this "Long Run" installment was that, according to people who know him well, this man who prizes his honor above all things and who appreciates the importance of appearances also has a history of being sometimes careless about the appearance of impropriety, about his reputation. The story cites several examples, and quotes friends and admirers talking of this apparent contradiction in his character. That is why some members of his staff were so alarmed by the appearance of his relationship with Ms. Iseman. And that, it seemed (and still seems) to us, was something our readers would want to know about a man who aspires to be president.

Clearly, many of you did not agree.

No comments: