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Tilting at Windmills

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February 21, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

QUESTIONS FOR THE TIMES....You'll all be excited to hear that the New York Times editors and reporters who worked on the John McCain non-affair story will be answering your questions on Friday. If you have a question, you can submit it to askthetimes@nytimes.com. Here's mine:

  1. Yes or no: do you think John McCain had an affair with Vicki Iseman?

  2. If yes, why do you think so? If no, why did you spend several hundred words insinuating that he did?

OK, that's actually two questions. Or three, depending on how you count. But, really, isn't that pretty much the whole thing? If McCain didn't have an affair, there's no story. If he did, then let's hear the evidence. The rest of the story about the Paxson lobbying is mildly interesting, but we all know perfectly well that no one really cares about it.

Kevin Drum 10:48 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (94)

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Kevin, your non-non-blogging on the non-story is, ironically, good blogging on the story.

Posted by: Ben V-L on February 21, 2008 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

I smell Rove in this. I know it sounds crazy, but if you could bruise the NYT, get a story out of the way, after Mitt's out of the way, but before the elections . . . . . .

Posted by: priscilla on February 21, 2008 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

Come on,Kevin! You're wrong - this is about lobbyists and insider influence. It's about McCains motivations AND ethics.

Posted by: Richard W. Crews on February 21, 2008 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK

The only people who see advantage to McCain, because it's the NYT, are beyond logic, reason, or reach.

Posted by: Richard W. Crews on February 21, 2008 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't know if no one really cares about the Paxson lobbying - but they could and should if the Democrats start pushing the story of McCain's long history of snuggling up to lobbyists. His 'Maverick" persona doesn't hold up too well when it's shown how easily he can be bought by anyone with enough money.

By accounts I've seen, his campaign is riddled with lobbyists. McCain is just another Republican front man for corporate interests, and making that clear to voters ought to have some kind of impact - especially if people are getting screwed by banks over mortgages and credit cards, and his role in the Keating 5 scandal is brought up again.

Posted by: xaxnar on February 21, 2008 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone remember the Gennifer Flowers allegations against Bill Clinton in 1992? Why was that O.K. to carry in the national press when most of Ms. Flowers allegations were proven to be bogus? For instance, Flowers claimed she met Clinton in the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock for a romantic tryst in 1979. One problem - the Excelsior Hotel hadn't even been built at that time. It opened in 1982.

Why are unsubstantiated allegations of extramarital infidelity O.K. for Republicans to make, but not for Democrats?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 21, 2008 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

An adultery story has to come with some sort of a nonsexual wrapper, some sort of thing that they can pretend it is about rather than admitting it's a straight sex scandal story. Thus the lobbying angle. (In Monicagate, the wrapper was the "lying under oath" BS, which no one cared about, but which they had to pretend was the real story so they could have an excuse to talk about the blowjobs and the tubesteak messiah.)

Posted by: jimBOB on February 21, 2008 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Gee Kevin, I've always stood up for you before. But you're an idiot on this one. Since when do you only care about the horse-race, tabloid aspects of politics? "...we all know perfectly well that no one really cares about it." Give me a break. It might not have been the best story in the world, but it was the story that got the public's attention, and it is the story that will, as long as it runs, focus that attention on McCain's hypocrisy when it comes to lobbyists, let alone women. His straight-talking maverick disguise can't abide that attention.

Posted by: Walter Crockett on February 21, 2008 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Without the sex angle this is just another story of a Washington insider doing favors for the clients of a lobbyist who was legally bribing him with campaign donations.

The undisputed underlying story is McCain that is a class one holier than thou hypocrite. The sex stuff just gets people to buy papers.

Oh, for all the wackos who think this story will unite the conservative base, you might be right for a week or two, but in the long run all most people will vaguely remember about this story is that McCain did some favor for a pretty young lobbyist he was banging. I don't give a damn how Rush spins it, that isn't a good thing for a candidate who claims to be holier than thou.

Posted by: Corpus Juris on February 21, 2008 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't the evidence really that (1) several McCain advisors said they were concerned he was spending way too much time with her (2) she was just some young blonde lobbyist, not a relative or a family friend or anyone else you'd expect him to have a reason to hang out with, and (3) McCain reportedly said himself that he behaved inappropriately- that is, he admitted at least that it kind of looked like he was having an affair- when he was confronted about it bby his advisors?

What more do they need to put in the story, Kevin? Isn't this kind of stuff often what conclusions that two people are having an affair are based on?

Posted by: Swan on February 21, 2008 at 11:11 PM | PERMALINK

Terrific Kevin,

No one cares about the corruption.
We only care about the sex.

Which party are you in again?

Posted by: jerry on February 21, 2008 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

For me the one important aspect of this story that isn't disputed is that McCain poor judgment. If you want to be President, especially if you run around claiming to be ethically superior, it is up to you to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Whether he was sleeping with Vicki he should have realized that people might think that he was. That he had to be pulled back from the relationship by his staff shows that he has piss poor judgment.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 21, 2008 at 11:24 PM | PERMALINK

I can't forgive Marc Cooper for his famous insight on middle class salaries and his own, but he's got you against the wall and bent over tonight.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marc-cooper/why-john-mccain-owes-_b_87720.html
Marc Cooper: Why John McCain Owes The New York Times a Thank You Card

In the intervening weeks between the moment when the Times was first going to publish the story and finally did publish the story, the same New York Times endorsed John McCain! And while he's described in the endorsement editorial as a "staunch advocate of campaign finance reform" he's tagged in this Wednesday's news piece as having accepted favors from those with matters that came before the very committee he used to push that reform. And many, many other favors.

More importantly, if the Times had published its expose when it first had it over Christmas, it would have preceded all of the Republican primaries and caucuses. To say it would have changed the dynamic of the GOP race is perhaps the understatement of the decade. You can bet Mitt Romney and even Mayor Rudy are up late tonight gnashing their teeth and pounding their heads against the wall over this one.

Go to jail Kevin, go directly to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

Posted by: jerry on February 21, 2008 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

Sort of a interesting fight your tying to pick here, Kev...

Posted by: elmo on February 21, 2008 at 11:27 PM | PERMALINK

"that McCain demonstrated poor judgment." "Rather he was sleeping with Vicki or not . . ." I am getting tired, but you get the point. There is enough in the story to give it legs. I think it will fester over time.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 21, 2008 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Oh my god! What a bunch of political adolescents! I don't give a flying fuck whose slippin' under whose skirts. What matters is the corruption and the influence peddling. Until we get over our juvenile sexual obsessions and hang-ups, we will continue to get stampeded over the cliff for the stupidest non-reasons while the real scandals go unnoticed.

Egbert, if you are lurking, I got the "trembling for my country" covered tonight.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State on February 21, 2008 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

This is a big fat wet kiss to Limbaugh, Hewitt, etc...

I say this was a McCain plant with the explicit goal of getting conservatives on his side...ala the Dan Rather plant last cycle...

Posted by: justmy2 on February 21, 2008 at 11:28 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, McCain slept with whatshername. Just like he cheated on his first wife with Cindy McCain before she was Cindy McCain.

Posted by: SMH on February 21, 2008 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

And Hilary Clinton is a "plagarist."

Posted by: SMH on February 21, 2008 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

If Paxson and Sinclair were just run-of-the-mill companies doing using a cutie to make their lobbying efforts more effective, I wouldn't care.

But both companies are seriously fugly.

If McCain sold his soul to Archer Daniels Midland, or to Glaxo, that would be one thing.

But Paxson and Sinclair are corporate sociopaths.
The policies and decisions they wanted McCain to defend stink.

That's the story.
Not the diddling of the blonde; the diddling of the public by a man who represents himself as Mr. Clean Bill of Political Ethics.

Posted by: joel hanes on February 21, 2008 at 11:39 PM | PERMALINK

Does anyone remember the Gennifer Flowers allegations against Bill Clinton in 1992? Why was that O.K. to carry in the national press when most of Ms. Flowers allegations were proven to be bogus?

Bill Clinton the Lying Douchebag admitted he lied through his teeth about that on 60 Minutes. Another reason why I don't want Clinton Round II in the White House. Anybody but the Clintons. I'm so sick of both of them, I just want them to go away for a long, long time. Their stupid bazillionaire hedge fund daughter patronizing people about how she really understands what it's like to pay medical bills.

All three of them. Go away. Forever.

Posted by: SMH on February 21, 2008 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

I dont much care if two consenting adults had sex. What I am concerneb about is did that sex lead to influence concerning the telcom issue today.

Posted by: Jet on February 21, 2008 at 11:45 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, Kevin, have you heard about agreement of verb and subject?

Posted by: Richard McDonough on February 21, 2008 at 11:46 PM | PERMALINK

Say what you will about being above caring about adultery, I think it speaks volumes about someone's character. They're public servants, they should be held to a higher standard. I thought Bill Clinton was a real scumbag for doing that to his wife multiple, multiple times. The same goes for all of those other philandering hypocrites. Bob Barr, Gingrich, "Wide Stance" Guy, et al. Should Clinton have been impeached over that? Of course not. But he brought that huge mess upon himself with his inability to act like an 18 year old with a modicum of self control around vaginas.

Feed McCain to the wolves over this for all I care.

That's why I like Obama, I get the sense that he has real family values -- don't cheat on your wife, be good to your kids, be a responsible father, etc.

Posted by: SMH on February 21, 2008 at 11:52 PM | PERMALINK

And so, I dont think of this issue about sex, but about the FISA issue and immunity.

And thats why I think the NYT chose now, of all times, to release this article.

The question is are they obfuscating/focusing this issue because they are for or against telco immunity?

Posted by: Jet on February 21, 2008 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

I think emptywheel is asking some interesting questions.

For the moment, though, I'm more interested in the 2004 election--the one McCain didn't run in. You see, I find it a mighty curious coincidence that two of the companies for which Iseman was lobbying John McCain in 1999 and 2000--the time of their potentially inappropriate relationship--also happen to be the two television companies that championed the Kerry smear, "Stolen Honor," in 2004.

--

The stories about Iseman all suggest (without saying what it means) that her career took off out of nowhere, from receptionist to president's special assistant to partner all in a matter of a couple of years. And her portfolio appears to be rather different than the earmarks portfolio that the company specializes in. Is there a back story to how Iseman became a one-person media lobbyist in such a short time? (Note, I'm not suggesting that she slept her way to the top--rather, I'm suggesting she may have been tapped to play a certain role for conservative media companies and that contributed to her value to the company.)

I don't think Iseman's earlier lobbying of McCain to help these two companies expand in 1999 and 2000 means Iseman had a role in the airing of Stolen Honor. But it does suggest something about the powerful people on whose behalf Iseman was lobbying McCain.

http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2008/02/21/did-vicki-iseman-steal-honor-in-three-presidential-elections/

Posted by: pol on February 21, 2008 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Blue girl the Times is doing us a favor. You are right. The cheesy influence peddling is what is killing this country. It is at least as bad today as it was during the Civil War and reconstruction. The Times is using the sex aspect of the story to rub our noses in the real corruption.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 21, 2008 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, it's always the sub-story that's important, so here's the real question: do you think McCain's advisors thought he was having an affair? Is that because he did before (when he was married to the first wife)? Do you think that's important? How does having your staff think you're having an affair detract from one's credentials as a straight-talking maverick? If several of your former staffers dish dirt to the NY Times, does that make you unfit to be President? And what's with Cindy's hair? Is a bad 'do enough to make a maverick stray?

Posted by: RM on February 22, 2008 at 12:00 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: SMH

The government cannot instill morals. Yes, I wish to see a less corrupt America but I fail to see how politicians could EVER change that. Morals are transferred from parent to child and not forced upon us thru laws.

And wealth and empowerment, by its nature, seek to pollute morals.

We need to teach virtue instead of teaching fear, for fear is not the answer to sin and amoral acts.

Posted by: Jet on February 22, 2008 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

David Brooks spills the beans on who the two anonymous sources were for the McCain article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/22/opinion/22brooks.html?hp

Posted by: SMH on February 22, 2008 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

I like this strategy. Attack the NYT now, so that the few elements of the media that don't have stretch marks on their lips from fellating McCain will figure "fuck it" and not bother to report anything negative about him in the future. Let's make sure that the only candidates who face this kind of shit are Dems. Sure, we might lose elections, and with them, the chance to undo some of the damage that's been done, but damnit, we'll look so fair and balanced and principled and wise! And that's what's really important. And it isn't as if McCain has an entire noise making apparatus at his disposal, oh no! He really needs the help of Kevin Drum. Us libruls shur r smartt. And fair. And thoughtful! Trust us! Listen to us! We're fair! Puhleeeeease? We aren't Dirty Fucking Hippies. Puleeeeeeease give us some credibility! Pretty Puhleeeeease?

Posted by: MG on February 22, 2008 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

Yes. McCain had the affair.

Reason: It's his MO; McCain cheated on his first wife. He's experienced, so it was easy for him to do it again.

Ah. Republican values...of which they have none.

Posted by: James on February 22, 2008 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

Whether John McCain had an affair with a lobbyist or was simply inappropriately close to her while she lobbied his committee, it's still inappropriate. None of us really know who's doing whom and the Times reporters are in the same situation. The reporters spent several hundred words saying they were inappropriately close, which is journalistically legitimate. A natural conclusion is that they had an affair, but maybe they didn't. That's really an issue for Cindy McCain. The rest of us can still conclude that John McCain is something of a whited sepulchre, whether his dissembling involves garden-variety sex or garden-variety influence peddling.

Posted by: Ben on February 22, 2008 at 12:37 AM | PERMALINK

Nice! Right on time with the Kos Kurse:

The numbers are moving dramatically in Obama's direction right now. He's going to win Texas, and win it comfortably. Here's the thing -- if the Texas election were today, Obama would likely win it by 10 points, regardless what the polls say. His ground operation is that good.

By the time this thing finally rolls around, expect Wisconsin-like numbers. The embrace of Obama will be final and absolute.

Obama is now officially doomed.

Posted by: SMH on February 22, 2008 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

You're obviously too quick to sneer at a perfectly valid story. What, are you trying to channel vapid inside-the-beltway imbeciles like Norah O'Donnell? A story about a relationship just isn't clawsy enough for you, you're a higher being who must just indulge the minions with a flick of your wrist and a grimace.

Nobody who wrote the article or related stories, nobody who published the article or related stories, nobody who read the article or related stories is going around running up and down the street saying "Did he fuck her?? Huh, huh, huh, did he fuck her??"

There was some kind of contact or exchange there and it worried his staffers. He's a major political figure, and that's worthy of commentary, especially in light of his actions on behalf of her clients.

People who care about politics do care about this story.

Perhaps you only want to read stories about political wheeling and dealing and doing favors for lobbyists--Oh, wait, that IS this story! How foolish of me.

Posted by: Anon on February 22, 2008 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

I swear I read it this way the first time:

the New York Times editors and reporters who worked on the John McCain non-affair story will be smearing your questions on Friday.

Posted by: anonymous on February 22, 2008 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

The Times article is not primarily about an affair. There are two aspects to the story that are important IMO:

1. Did McCain do things to help Iseman's clients that he wouldn't have done otherwise?

2. Is the following Times statemet true:


In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman.

McCain denies both. #1 is very important, but to a great degree a matter of opinion and interpretation. #2 is less important (for the country), but it is a question of fact -- one that could establish whether McCain lies when convenient.

The Times claims it has two people who said independently that those "confrontations" occurred and that McCain admitted that he had acted "inappropriately". McCain says it didn't happen. If this can be established, then the Straight Talk Express isn't.

Posted by: JS on February 22, 2008 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

JS,

Only question 1 is important. Question 2 is the "Bill Clinton did you have sex" question. People are expected to lie on that question -- it's dumb to even ask the question and atrocious to penalize them for lying about it. (Says Republican and Manson Prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi.)

Posted by: jerry on February 22, 2008 at 12:58 AM | PERMALINK

I think the confusion is that the NY Times knows that campaign aids were worried about the possibility of an affair, but as to whether or not that affair really happened---only McCain and Iseman know. It's a weird sort of grey area between innuendo and news.

Posted by: AMP on February 22, 2008 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

"The rest of the story about the Paxson lobbying is mildly interesting, but we all know perfectly well that no one really cares about it"

I care. I care very much. It's speaks to his hypocrisy, to his ethical slide rule being skewed, to possible improprieties in office, and to the corruption of the system. It's certainly nothing new, but that doesn't mean we don't have to care or react to it.

Posted by: e.R. Beardsley on February 22, 2008 at 1:11 AM | PERMALINK

Jerry, nobody asked him anything. He volunteered the information that these two people are lying. (So it's similar to Clinton saying "I had no sex with that woman" on TV, when nobody asked him, not in his deposition under oath).

I agree that what company you keep and whether there is sex involved or not should be private matters and beyond public scrutiny. But when you are a senator, and some of your staff claim you got very close to a lobbyist, then it's no longer a private matter. I think it's fair for the press to report it and examine it.

Now that there is a public disagreement about facts, the Times is in the hot seat. If they cannot bring out the sources and provide actual proof that they are telling the truth (about the "confrontations"), then the paper will find itself in Dan Rather's situation.

Posted by: JS on February 22, 2008 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

As a newspaperman myself, my questions are more about NYT process, some of them related to the paper's endorsement of McCain:

1. Is Bill Keller on the editorial board, re the Times' endorsement of Romney?

2. Even though the story was necessarily tightly held to the vest, should he have said SOMETHING to the editorial board, somewhere in the process of candidate interviews by the board, discussions, votes, etc.?

3. Was the Drudge leak by one of the four reporters involved? If so, was the leak directly to Drudge? To a friendly WaPost reporter? To some other third party?

4. If not for the Drudge story in December, the WaPost story in December and Baquet's continued push, would Bill Keller ever have let this story see the light of day?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 1:38 AM | PERMALINK

BG: John McCain as private citizen, I'm with you. He could be fucking a donkey in Tijuana for all I care.

BUT, this ain't John McCain, private citizen. His suck-up to the Religious Right, as I've said more than once today, makes the sex angle alone perfectly legitimate as a news issue. That said, the story is about a quid pro quo, McCain being cheap but not easy, or vice versa. Nonetheless, it's not "adolescent," given the politics, to focus on sex as sex.

Personally, I'm wondering how it will play down here in Bible Belt Tejas in the primary.

Joel: Don't you be soft-shoeing ADM, "supermarket to the world and hog trough to Congress." Environmentally offensive ethanol, Big Ag-tilted farm bills and more, ADM is just as offensive in its own way as Sinclair. Don't forget, or maybe you are too young to know, way back when, Dwayne Andreas was one of Tricky Dick's biggest campaign contributors this side of ITT.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

Of course he did. He has a history. Hell, I'd have gone for it myself.

But then again, I am not running for President on the Right Wing Fund-o ticket.

Posted by: Ba'al on February 22, 2008 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

My question, Kevin, is why don't you care about Paxson lobbying?

Isn't this exactly the dynamic that prevents progress in areas from health care to global warming?

Posted by: mirror on February 22, 2008 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

Shades of Dan Rather and the Bush National Guard story... It might be true (and, at least in as much as McCain is metaphorically in bed with a lot of unsavory lobbyists, something like it is almost certainly true) but the story will ultimately be used to discredit the NY Times while simultaneously placing a cloud over any future stories. I think Priscilla was absolutely right -- there is something Rovian afoot here.

Posted by: idlemind on February 22, 2008 at 2:00 AM | PERMALINK

SMH, Brooks spilled nothing. Why don't you learn how to fucking read before you sit at a keyboard?

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

I have no illusions about ADM.

Besides all you mention, and other publicly-known stuff, an aunt of mine worked for them for years, and she despises the organization with a heat I had thought foreign to her character.

But Sinclair's conniving, lying smear of John Kerry, a weak candidate but a fine man, made me, still makes me, ill to contemplate. The outfit is as fundamentally dishonest, in their own way, as Enron was in its.

And you should read up on Paxson.

I used ADM purposely to demonstrate just how low is my opinion of Ms. Iseman's employers, and the kind of Company that was gaining Sen. McCain's ear while McCain kept company with their cute little blonde lobbyist.

Posted by: joel hanes on February 22, 2008 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

OK, Joel... I'll buy that. And, I have read up on Paxon, starting with Josh Marshall's 2001 story in Tapped.

Let's call them offenders in different ways. Sinclair, and Paxton, are smearers par excellence. But ADM has cost taxpayers probably $100 billion by now.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 22, 2008 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

WaPo piles on (Friday):

virtually every one [of McCain's closest advisers] 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.

Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.

So the lobbying angle, rather than sex, seems to be getting legs.

Posted by: JS on February 22, 2008 at 3:32 AM | PERMALINK

I just emailed the Times to ask them if John McCain really is a maverick.

Posted by: reino on February 22, 2008 at 6:18 AM | PERMALINK

But the Times DID NOT insinuate that McCain had an affair. They reported that McCain's own staff believed he may be romantically involved with the lobbyist.

I would agree that the Times should not have reported this story if its sources were mere gossipmongers, with no particular basis for special insight into McCain's possible involvement with Iseman. But these are McCain's own staffers, and they were so concerned about McCain's possible romantic involvement that they repeatedly confronted him about it. These facts alone are sufficient to lift this story out of the realm of insinuation.

The fact that McCain's own staffers were so concerned that they confronted McCain is itself a story, regardless of whether McCain actually had an affair. The suggestion implicit in Kevin's questions that these beliefs and actions on the part of McCain's own staff would not be news is, to me, untenable.

Posted by: thomas c on February 22, 2008 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

The story is how much St. John was in bed with lobbyists. Not the sex.

Kevin, your slip is showing.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 22, 2008 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

As has become too frequent again, you are wrong and Hullaboo gets it right...

It's His Judgment, Stupid

by tristero

Even if you take him at his word and give him every benefit of a doubt, even if you cut him some slack for being more willing than most politicians to admit mistakes, even if you dismiss as tawdry the insinuation of an affair that the Times couldn't prove, the article makes it quite clear there's something seriously wrong with McCain's judgment. The deal breaker - what makes him utterly unqualified to be president, especially now - is that he seems incapable of improving it. He makes the same mistake over and over again. Here's an overlooked nuance from the second paragraph:
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.
Aides - plural - repeatedly had to confront McCain about his inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist. Once or twice wasn't enough for him to get the message. This is a persistent theme in McCain's behavior.

In fact, the Iseman incident itself was a reprise of similar behavior. Ten years earlier, to use the Times' word, McCain had done an "official favor for a friend with regulatory problems" and found himself knee deep in the Keating savings and loan scandal, barely escaping with his career. And then, with Iseman, "Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of" his new friend's client.

But there's more. Not only had McCain gotten in trouble for the earlier favor-mongering, he even realized, albeit belatedly, what his mistakes were - being too trustful of daring, confident, people; getting too close to people with business before the government, and so on. Even understanding this, he acted the same way with Iseman (regardless of whether you believe his denials of an affair).

In other words, McCain admits his judgment is frequently awful. Even when he knows better, he can't help himself sometimes- he's easily, and dangerously, swayed by strong personalities and by his need for friendships with such people. But think about what that means. Even if you cut him slack on a personal level - something along the level of, "well, at least he has the courage to admit he's wrong and the insight to know why" - this is not the kind of personality you want negotiating with Vladimir Putin, to pick just one example.

Sure. Everyone makes mistakes. And even though McCain makes spectacular mistakes, that in and of itself isn't the real crux of the problem. Rather it's this: By his own admission, McCain can't learn from his mistakes. He knows himself that his personality is too rigid. That is the critical difference between John McCain and a truly qualified candidate for President of the United States. And no amount of straight-shooting hype will change that.

Posted by: steve on February 22, 2008 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one who wants to read the original NYTimes stories - the one that the reports wrote before the lawyers got to it?

Posted by: ET on February 22, 2008 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

what xanar said. There is a story in the fact that he's lousy with lobbyists. In fact, in his statements yesterday, he sounded a lot like Hillary Clinton when she made her "lobbyists are people too" statement at yearlyKos.

In addition, his actions with Paxson are extremely similar to his actions in the Keating 5--the scandal that supposedly put him on the path to righteousness.

Posted by: anonymous on February 22, 2008 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK
"The rest of the story about the Paxson lobbying is mildly interesting, but we all know perfectly well that no one really cares about it."

I'm hoping to see a picture of a cat on top of an open suitcase full of cash today.

Posted by: Aaron on February 22, 2008 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

"The rest of the story about the Paxson lobbying is mildly interesting, but we all know perfectly well that no one really cares about it."

I completely disagree. McCain's support from independents come primarily because they believe he is an honest guy. The sex angle gets their attention. But then, when they dig through it, they discover that while their isn't any evidence of a sexual relationship, there is plenty of evidence that he was doing the lobbyists bidding.

Whether it was because she flirted with him, or something more, it doesn't really matter.

Posted by: DR on February 22, 2008 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

This story is the thread that needs to be pulled on the myth of McCain. He is surrounded by lobbyists and that is now being highllighted.

And of course they were having an affair, but if you are a republican, it doesn't matter.

Posted by: lilybart on February 22, 2008 at 10:33 AM | PERMALINK

"the 'lying under oath' BS, which no one cared about...."
____________________

It isn't advisable to test the belief that nobody cares about lying under oath. Most people who are caught at it aren't cut any slack at all.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on February 22, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

"there is plenty of evidence that he was doing the lobbyists bidding."
__________________

I'm not much of a fan of Senator McCain, but where was the evidence that he was doing the bidding of any lobbyist? House and Senate committee chairpersons write letters like the one written in the Paxson situation all the time. It is considered a legitimate part of Congressional oversight, especially if the topic is one dealt with in their committee.

My office has been wrestling with just such an interest expressed by a Congressional chairman and they are quite open about telling us what they think we should do, rather than just urging geater speed. Quite often, the really interested parties are the committee staffers. The Senator or Congressman simply signs the letter

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

The Paxson lobbyists will be a key component to the McCain campaign. Paxson owns many independent television stations across the country. They will broadcast the swiftboat 'documentaries' of Obama or Clinton incessantly right before the election. Paxson is in bed with Newsmax, which will 'sponsor' the anti-Democratic broadcasts like they did when Paxson ran the anti-Kerry Swiftboat movie consecutively many times on the Sunday before the 2004 election, selling DVD's of the movie in their Kerry-bashing advertisements.

Posted by: Brojo on February 22, 2008 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't advisable to test the belief that nobody cares about lying under oath. Most people who are caught at it aren't cut any slack at all.

Well, except if their names are Scooter Libby and they're lying about betraying vital national security secrets in a time of war, in which case they're let off the hook by George Bush. But yes, most people who aren't high-level Republican Dick Cheney cronies aren't cut the same slack. That's justice for you....

Posted by: Stefan on February 22, 2008 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

And of course they were having an affair, but if you are a republican, it doesn't matter.

I will say this for McCain -- at least he was having a consensual affair with an adult woman, unlike most Republicans, who tend to get caught in sordid sexual situations with young boys or girls, hookers, Central American sex slaves, assorted household pets, or strange and bizarre topiary formations.

Posted by: Stefan on February 22, 2008 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

It isn't advisable to test the belief that nobody cares about lying under oath. Most people who are caught at it aren't cut any slack at all.

Yes, just look at how Alberto Gonzales now sits in jail for perjuring himself before Congre....oh, never mind. *sigh*

Posted by: Stefan on February 22, 2008 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

I have a question for the defenders of the Times.

Suppose the Times did the same thing to Obama? Waits until after he wraps up the nomination by winning Texas and Ohio, and then runs a story, based on innuendo alone, suggesting that he had an affair with a female lobbyist 8 years ago while he was in the Ill. legislature. And suppose further that the Times had that story two months ago and sat on it until after he had knocked Mrs. Clinton out of the race.

If that happened, do you think you would be angry? Do you think you would be complaining about a hit job by the Times, a smear campaign for political purposes?

Of course you would. Don't bother to deny it.

So Kevin has this one right (as does Matt Yglesias, much to my surprise) and you all ought to listen to them.

Posted by: DBL on February 22, 2008 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

trashhauler,

The letter McCain actually wrote to the FCC was reported on at the time. In it McCain demanded the commissioners each explain why they hadn't ruled by a date certain. That demand caused howls of protest from the FCC commissioners who claimed the demand was unusual.

If memory serves it was pretty clear that McCain hadn't vetted the letter with his staff before sending it. They would have told him to take the offensive sentence out.

It is true that he specifically didn't demand the commissioners rule any particular way.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 22, 2008 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

DBL

I would be thankful that the Times waited until after the nomination was in the bag but far enough from the convention and election for everything to blow over.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 22, 2008 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I can't remember a Presidential election where the chasm between reality and the consultant-spun image are larger than they are in BOTH likely nominees. John McCain is a regular right wing conservative Republican with extremely close ties to lobbyists built up over decades; People somehow think he is a moderate reformer and maverick. Barrack Obama is a liberal with no record of being a reformer and in the rare instances when he forwards proposals, they are a cafeteria menu of boilerplate Democratic policies; People think he's an exciting reformer who is going to change everything -- including as Kevin posts above the freaking Middle East crisis. It's truly depressing. It's not an election: It's American Idol.

Posted by: Pat on February 22, 2008 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, there is a story, of the continuing denials by McCain that he holds all lobbyists at arms length. Maybe his denials are bullshit. As to the sexual side of the story, my impression is that the Times found people within McCain's entourage who were/are convinced he was having or was about to have an affair, and that story, if true, would be troubling, because of McCain's characterization of himself as above any perceived wrong doing, of any kind.

Posted by: rbe1 on February 22, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Why is it so hard to accept that the Times doesn't know the ultimate answer, but wants to tell its readers what it does know? Is there something wrong with that? Isn't that what newspapers are supposed to do?

Posted by: John on February 22, 2008 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

"That [McCain] demand caused howls of protest from the FCC commissioners who claimed the demand was unusual."
_______________________

The FCC commissioners must lead sheltered lives. And, of course, "unusual" does not equate to "improper."

I do know the feeling, however. If you don't get the response to a Congressman exactly right, you'll be dealing with requests for information, mandated studies, and demands for clarification til the cows come home. It takes a Congressional staffer only an hour to draft a letter that will keep an office jumping through hoops for months.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

The Times story, together with Jonathan Chait's cover story in this week's TNR, shows where this fight is headed: John McCain is a fraud who, contrary to his reputation as a "maverick" who puts principle before party and country before self, is a demonstrably cynical politician willing to affect an ideological about-face in order to further his political ambitions, even if it meant ingratiating himself with the very people he knew were destructive of core principles of the United States. Further, McCain has a history of flirting with just the kind of influence peddling he claims to abhor, not to mention McCain's willingness to game public campaign finance law, his signature issue.

The Democrats' challenge in the general election will be to hammer home to the voters the reality that, not only is McCain a decrepit militarist jonesin' to rock the casbah, but that:

John McCain is a fraud.

Posted by: Lucy on February 22, 2008 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

Trashhauler

If we were talking about a regular corrupt conservative senator your defense might hold a little water (although the letter was unusual enough to attract attention at the time), but we are talking about St. John McCain pompous maverick opponent of all that is corrupt. Heh, right.

Also yesterday St. John McCain said he didn't write the letter at the request of the lobbyist, but a Washington Post article at the time says it was written at the request of Iseman's lobbying firm. He didn't protest then.

McCain's problem is that he wants Americans to believe he is better than the average Senator. He isn't. He never saw a company who he wouldn't favor if they gave a big enough campaign donation.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 22, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin wrote: "If McCain didn't have an affair, there's no story [...] the story about the Paxson lobbying is mildly interesting, but we all know perfectly well that no one really cares about it."

Thanks for so clearly expressing the utter vapidity and cynicism of the "sensible liberal" blogosphere.

The real story is that McCain improperly pressured the FCC commissioners on behalf of a corporate lobbyist.

The real story is that McCain, who has campaigned as an "independent maverick" who is not beholden to "special interests" is in fact, in bed with corporate lobbyists and always has been.

The real story is that McCain's campaign operation is crowded with corporate lobbyists.

The real story is that the "independent maverick" McCain is a fake, a phony and a fraud, and is every bit as much the bought-and-paid-for tool of corporate interests as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

But you just go on ignoring all of that as "not very interesting" and focus on the National Enquirer sex scandal aspect. And then wonder what happened when McCain is sworn in as President next January.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 22, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

trashhauler,
I don't believe that doing the lobbyists bidding is illegal, and I'm not suggesting that he did anything illegal. What I am suggesting is that he acted on behalf of the lobbyists clients rather than on behalf of the American People. Yes, senators do that all the time. The press reports on McCain as if he isn't one of those senators, and that is the impression the American People have of him.

Posted by: DR on February 22, 2008 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

The Boston Globe's take on McCain's relationship with Paxson.

Posted by: joel hanes on February 22, 2008 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks Joel, that ought to give supporters of America's favorite reformer something to think about. Trashhauler, Joel's link is dated in 2000. The Paxton lobbyist was obviously Ms Vicki. It isn't clear whether he was getting anything more than plane rides and money, but he sure liked the plane rides and the money.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 22, 2008 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for so clearly expressing the utter vapidity and cynicism of the "sensible liberal" blogosphere.

Virtually no one here agrees with Kevin, and you'll find even less agreement on other liberal/Democratic/progressive blogs, where the bloggers themselves, not just the commenters, strongly disagree with Kevin on this point.

Kevin is not a piece of the "sensible liberal" blogosphere. He is pretty much an entity unto himself.

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 12:02 PM | PERMALINK
If McCain didn't have an affair, there's no story.

It's seems quite likely that that McCain had an inappropriate relationship given his position as a U.S. Senator with Iseman as a lobbyist, including compromising his judgement as it applied to performing the duties and exercising the prerogatives of his office, which suggests a serious lack of judgement relevant to evaluating him as a candidate for the Presidency, whether or not he slept with her, which is, really, almost entirely irrelevant to his fitness for the Presidency, and mostly related to his performance as a husband, in which I am completed uninterested, not being his wife or any member of his or her family.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"If we were talking about a regular corrupt conservative senator your defense might hold a little water (although the letter was unusual enough to attract attention at the time), but we are talking about St. John McCain pompous maverick opponent of all that is corrupt. Heh, right."
_____________________

True enough, though I suppose Senator McCain would claim that every time he's acted it's been for the good of the country or some such thing. But then, each and every Congressman and Senator says that, Obama and Clinton included.

Writing letters at the urging of lobbyists is clearly a bipartisan practice. It isn't even necessarily a bad practice, either. We cannot get rid of lobbyists, and we all like it when they succeed to getting something passed that we agree with. Every Cause, company, and interest group has their own lobbyists.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK
And, of course, "unusual" does not equate to "improper."

Unusual equates to "unusual", which makes it "news". It clearly involves performance of official public duties by McCain, as an elected official, which is certainly relevant to evaluating his fitness for President. Whether voters view the "unusual" behavior as "improper" is a decision for them to make with full information.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK
True enough, though I suppose Senator McCain would claim that every time he's acted it's been for the good of the country or some such thing.

Of course he would. It is for the electorate to take the facts and weigh his claims about the facts against them, and decide whether (for instance):
1) His claim of public rather than private motivation is honest or mendacious, and
2) His claim of public motivation, if taken as honest, shows the kind of judgement about the public interest they want in a President.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK
I'm not much of a fan of Senator McCain

But you carry water (or would "shovel refuse" be better?) for the Republican candidates you have, not the Republican candidates you wish you had, I understand.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 22, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

"The real story is that McCain improperly pressured the FCC commissioners on behalf of a corporate lobbyist."
__________________

Again, in what way was Senator McCain's pressure on the FCC commissioners "improper?"

Every senator and congressperson considers such things as integral to their jobs. Responding to a lobbyist is quite legitmate, which is why the Sierra Club and labor unions use lobbyists, too.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

"But you carry water (or would "shovel refuse" be better?) for the Republican candidates you have, not the Republican candidates you wish you had, I understand."
_____________________

I haven't carried any water for anyone in these posts, except to point out that responding to lobbyists is an important and legitimate part of the job for any member of congress. If anyone accuses Senators Obama or Clinton of a similar thing, I'll state the same thing.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

shortstop wrote: "Kevin is not a piece of the 'sensible liberal' blogosphere."

In my opinion, based on reading Kevin Drum's blog for quite a few years now (from the pre-Washington Monthly "Calpundit" days), Kevin epitomizes the "sensible liberal" both in the subject matter that he focuses on (and the subject matter that he largely ignores) and in his approach to that subject matter. And Kevin is certainly a prominent "piece" of the political blogosphere, even considered across the whole range of political viewpoints.

trashhauler wrote: "Again, in what way was Senator McCain's pressure on the FCC commissioners 'improper?'"

Read the commissioners' replies to McCain.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on February 22, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well, my point, SecAn, was that Kevin pretty much is the "sensible liberal" blogosphere as you correctly define its traits and viewpoints. I don't think he has much competition in doing what he does...er, exactly the moderately moderate, assiduously unshrill way he does it.

So perhaps it would be more accurate to describe him as a one-man...well, show...unless you can name another prominent blogger who calls himself or herself a Democrat, liberal or progressive who shares more than a few of Kevin's perspectives and analyses? I know I can't think of any, and I've certainly tried.

Posted by: shortstop on February 22, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

This is part of the FCC Chairman Kennard's response to Senator McCain.

"I am concerned that inquiries concerning the individual deliberations of each commissioner could have procedural and substantive impacts on the commission's deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties."

While Kennard denounced the request as 'highly unusual' he did not state that it was either improper or illegal, as well he should not have, since the request came from Senator McCain, whose committee chairmanship gave him oversight of the agency.

Apparently, Senator McCain chose not to press the matter.

Contrast that to more recent treatment of the FCC by Congressman Dingell, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee who declared that the FCC has suffered “an apparent breakdown in an open and transparent regulatory process” and ordered an investigation of the agency.

The investigation will be conducted by Rep. Bart Stupak. Mr. Stupak said in a news release that he had received several complaints about the way Mr. Martin conducted business at the agency.

Anyone want to bet that no lobbyist had anything to do with those complaints?

It must be said that Congressman Dingel's actions were also an entirely appropriate exercise of oversight. And an investigation is a bit more coercive than a polite request for action that the commissioners felt free to deny.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

"Yes or no: do you think John McCain had an affair with Vicky Iseman? If Yes why do you think so?"

I dunno Kevin, the story says "Convinced that the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened".... Then there is the Weaver quote about meeting with Iseman telling her to stay away. Do you think that maybe McCain's own advisers gave the Times the idea McCain had an affair? Duh!

Posted by: James G on February 22, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm not a fan of Senator McCain, but where was the evidence that he was doing the bidding of any lobbyist?"

You're making the Times case for them. Maybe McCain thought Paxson's request was fine and it was just a coincidence that Paxson just happened to be a client of Iseman's. But it gives the impression of impropriety. At least that's what I thought was the thrust of the Times article - McCain's actions gave the appearance of possible corruption, and that got his advisers worried.

Posted by: James G on February 22, 2008 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

And an investigation is a bit more coercive than a polite request for action that the commissioners felt free to deny.

Well, that certainly does take the cake for lying disingenousness, to claim that an investigation of an agency for not conducting an open an honest regulatory process is "more coercive" than attempting to suborn and pervert that open and honest regulatory process by exerting undue influence.

In the same way, I suppose, that the police investigating bribery and corruption is more coercive than engaging in bribery and corruption, because hey, the person being bribed can always refuse, right?

Every time you think these wingnuts can't sink any lower, they come up with some claim so breathtaking in its shamelesness that you can't help but gasp in wonder at the sheer Dadaesque bravado.

Posted by: Stefan on February 22, 2008 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

Go ahead and obfuscate, all you want, Stefan. I made no claim, whatsoever. Anyone who denies that lobbyists affect the actions of politicians on both sides of the aisle is either stupid or feigning ignorance.

If you can claim there is no difference in severity between an Congressional investigation and a letter, then all that proves is that you have never worked in government.

Posted by: trashhauler on February 22, 2008 at 8:24 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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