Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 24, 2008

TIME FOR RICK DAVIS TO GO.... Hilzoy summarized the latest revelations about McCain campaign manager Rick Davis last night. The news is hard to spin away -- Davis not only lobbied to shield Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from federal regulations, but we now learn that Davis' lobbying firm was picking up $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac, right up until it was taken over by the feds.

Let's pause to fully appreciate the big picture here.

John McCain argued last week that the crisis on Wall Street "started in the Washington culture of lobbying and influence pedaling." Oops.

John McCain insisted, on national television, just a couple of days ago, that Davis had had no involvement with Freddie Mac for the last several years. He added, "I'll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it." (Davis adopted the same line on a conference call with reporters on Monday, arguing that he's been completely detached from the housing lending giants.)

John McCain told voters last week that Barack Obama having tenuous relationships with former officials at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is scandalous, worthy of attack ads, and enough to cast doubts on Obama's judgment.

Given all of this, it's hard to see how McCain keeps Rick Davis on as campaign manager.

Indeed, McCain might even have a credible excuse. Given that McCain went on the attack over Fannie/Freddie associations, and said Davis hasn't been connected to the companies for years, he could probably argue now, "My campaign manager misled me about the extent of his lobbying work." Indeed, that's what it largely boils down to -- either Davis led to McCain, or McCain lied to us. I suspect the campaign will prefer Door #1.

To be sure, it's left McCain in a very awkward position. If he lets Davis go, the campaign will look awful with less than six weeks until Election Day. If he keeps Davis on, he looks dishonest and borderline corrupt.

It couldn't have happened to a more appropriate campaign.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (49)

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Comments

And here I sit with only two middle fingers.

Posted by: chrenson on September 24, 2008 at 8:03 AM | PERMALINK

Tipping point, perhaps? Obama's leads yesterday in significant swing states and national polls must have scared the bejeezus out of McCain's camp. Add Campbell Brown's call-out of the 'cloistered' Palin campaign (with her "Free Sarah" slogan), and we may have the perfect storm for the Dems. If the economy had to tank, better now than on Nov. 5th...

Posted by: brooklyn on September 24, 2008 at 8:06 AM | PERMALINK

what i can't figure out is, how the hell is mccain getting away with still running all of those ads that have all of those lies?

orange

Posted by: just bill on September 24, 2008 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

In the metaphor of the moment Rick Davis is now toxic sludge.
And the phrase: Where's the beef? has been replaced with: Where's the garbage pail?

Posted by: koreyel on September 24, 2008 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

Given all of this, it's hard to see how McCain keeps Rick Davis on as campaign manager.

I wouldn't bet that he's gone. Most likely, this will be added to the long list of things that are "hard to see" about this campaign, but continue nevertheless. The rules have obviously changed. Truth and accountability mean nothing.

Posted by: pedestrian on September 24, 2008 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

And here I sit with only two middle fingers. - chrenson

Good one, thanks.

either Davis led to McCain, or McCain lied to us. I suspect the campaign will prefer Door #1.

Or he'll do what he always does - insist that reality is much simpler. "We = good, they = bad. Don't believe them."

Posted by: Danp on September 24, 2008 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

Another plus for Obama: foreign leaders are weighing in on the economic crisis and its already involving foreign banks. Friday's foreign policy debate will most likely spend much more time on economic issues than John McCain will be happy about. No doubt he's being coached to turn every question back to the surge, but with the econimc crisis spreading beyond our boarders he may find himself on much less comfortable ground.

Posted by: Saint Zak on September 24, 2008 at 8:13 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain was a POW and Sarah Palin is awesome.

Posted by: g. powell on September 24, 2008 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

You keep predicting changes in McCain's campaign tactics or personal behavior based on events that prove him a liar, a hypocrite, a flip-flopper, etc.

That assumes McCain and his campaign and repugs in general are capable of shame.

They are not.

That's why they keep repeating lies that have been proven lies over and over and over again.

McCain still has dozens of lobbyists on his payroll despite getting hit on this hypocrisy numerous times over the past year.

They are shameless. They don't care what you or anybody else thinks.

I'd say the more obvious it becomes that Davis is a criminal, the more likely he is to KEEP his job.

The only thing that could protect him more right now would be allegations of child rape.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on September 24, 2008 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

I would enjoy being wrogn but it is hard for me to see how Davis can get dropped. The press won't cover thsi m most of the public won't ever know, McCain will just keep on doing what wingnuts do: lie, lie, lie, lie.

Posted by: wonkie on September 24, 2008 at 8:21 AM | PERMALINK

Who best to consult with McCain on the culture of lobbying and insider cronyism than those who were in the middle of it? Those who understand it the best are in the best position to fight it. This might very well be the reasoning that McCain follows in keeping Rick Davis on. It will take some short circuitry of logic, but McCain is a master of this shell game.

Posted by: lou on September 24, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Let this be the equivalent of Hart's "...follow me around..." comment awhile back! Although you are spinning the conditions of this connection a bit, I'd say...there is some "truth" on both sides as Davis, as I understand it, wasn't "working for" the company receiving the money (but I think it's HIS company)...so that's one shell game they all play...HIDE THE MONEY!!! GEEZ McShame wants folks to believe that he didn't know about Fiorina's golden parachute...either way he's damned on that one, I'd say. This is the man that picked SCARAH Palin, for GOD'S SAKE...WAKE UP SHEEPLE...what will it take???

Posted by: Dancer on September 24, 2008 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

even if they keep him on in the background, like Gramm, we all benefit if we never see that slimeball on TV again. (Is it just me, or are his lips creepy?) I felt the same about some of Hillary's top people.

Posted by: farmgirl on September 24, 2008 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Let Davis go? A Democratic candidate would probably see no alternative, and cut him loose. A republican will just shout louder about something unrelated.

Posted by: JoeW on September 24, 2008 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Oh these tangled webs we weave...

You all remember that old line: "When do you know McCain is lying? Whenever he opens his mouth"

How this putz can be only four or five points down can only be laid at the feet of Racism.

I'm betting that won't be enough. Pocketbook issues will trump (if only by a little) queasy closet racists in this one. Even bigots hate to see their 401K's tank.

Posted by: stevio on September 24, 2008 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

Davis will stay. The spin will be (already is), he wasn't on the PAYROLL since 2006, and hasn't anything to do with the lobbying firm (yeah, I know, I know, he owns the firm - See: "Truth has a liberal bias").

The way Palin/McCain has been dinking the press around lately, I fully expect to see them jump on this a bit (although Yahoo had the AP headline on this earlier - 2am-ish - and has taken it down already.

Posted by: colonpowwow on September 24, 2008 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

Danp: And here I sit with only two middle fingers. - chrenson

Good one, thanks.

To give credit where it's due, I believe Marilyn Manson said it first. "My friends," I only quote from the best. Or the creepiest.

Posted by: chrenson on September 24, 2008 at 8:35 AM | PERMALINK

I have finally figured it out. If you want to know exactly where McCain is vulnerable, look at whatever his campaign is critisizing about Obama.

John Stewart figured it out awhile back. The Daily Show staff immediately starts digging into past news reels whenever any criticism is made by any campaign.

Posted by: GeorgiaGirl on September 24, 2008 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

steve Benen wrote: "If he keeps Davis on, he looks dishonest and borderline corrupt."

McCain only "looks" dishonest and corrupt to those who see this information for what it is. The corporate-owned mass media will do their best to ensure that it is obscured, e.g. by suggesting false equivalency between Davis and someone that Obama had a five minute conversation with.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 24, 2008 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry Roger Miller. Rick Davis' Theme Song

I'm for sale or rent
Lobbying to let...fifty grand.
Six phones, a pool, some pets
I won't shill for mere cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of greasin' plams
Buys an eight or twelve bedroom house
I'm a mean ass man of some means
King of the Toads.

John McCain, pres campaign
Destination...Bangor, Maine.
Well tailored suits and shoes,
I won't pay for union dues,
Lobbied for Freddie before it hit the ground
Deny, with a big wing around
I'm a mean ass man of some means
King of the Toads.

I know every body under every rock
Sell their children, and for any price
Get every handout from every corp
Get every buck that ain't locked
When no one's around.

I sing,
Lobbying to let...fifty grand.
Six phones, a pool, some pets
I won't shill for mere cigarettes
Ah, but..two hours of greasin' plams
Buys an eight or twelve bedroom house
I'm a mean ass man of some means
King of the Toads.

Posted by: Former Dan on September 24, 2008 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

So Rick Davis's $15,000 monthly retainer is being paid us taxpayers? Time to cut expenses.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on September 24, 2008 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

Reposting my thoughts from Hilzoy's piece last night:

John McCain is in deep shit and he doesn't have the shoes for it!*

Here's my take away from all the financial stuff unearthing. There is so much money being passed around from one entity to the next for no purpose other than to insure that the vast sums of money keep getting passed around. And that money starts with the American taxpayer. We're being used like bottomless ATM cards. And when the money dries up, they'll print more.

Now you've got Bush encouraging other nations to print more of their money to bail out their financial institutions just to keep our dollar from disintegrating.

It's like Bush is asking everyone to commit suicide at once. If they do, Bush wins like some religious cult leader in creepy sweat pants.

* quoted from The Bourne Supremacy

Posted by: chrenson on September 24, 2008 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

I should learn to hit the preview button before sending.

plams = palms
wing = wink

Posted by: Former Dan on September 24, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

If he keeps Davis on, he looks dishonest and borderline corrupt.

Normally, candidates don't want that look. In McCain's case, he may not care, considering he never retracts false statements. Besides he enjoys playing the victim card and rousing the faithful with cries of "media bias!".

And he'll do it here, too, I betcha. Still - I hope the media covers this in detail. He's the "Crusader" in theory and the Hypocrite in reality. After that screaming at Obama about lobbyists, he richly deserves this.

Posted by: Miss Otis on September 24, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

From CNN.com: Ahmadinejad: 'American empire' nearing its end

In a blistering speech before the United Nations General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed "a few bullying powers" for creating the world's problems and said the "American empire in the world is reaching the end of its road."

When the crazy Iranian dude starts making sense, it's probably time to listen up. And packing.

Posted by: chrenson on September 24, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

When the crazy Iranian dude starts making sense, it's probably time to listen up. And packing.

If you want to talk about an eroding economy and devalued currency, let's talk Iran. Let's not give this guy any credibility please. He's a nut, and the Iranian economy suffered as a result of.

Posted by: Mick on September 24, 2008 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

I have finally figured it out. If you want to know exactly where McCain is vulnerable, look at whatever his campaign is critisizing about Obama.

This is exactly right.

They have inverted the old saw about attacking your opponent's strengths, and instead launch attacks based upon on their own over-exposures.

And here is was thinking: Am I the only one noticing this?

Posted by: koreyel on September 24, 2008 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

McCain can not afford to let Davis go at this point. It would be an event covered by everyone - even low information voters would get wind of it and why. McCain will continue to play "the media is out to get me" card. And continue to put up a disinformation screen.

The only question is when will the media be at a true tipping point and really lash back? Remember Nixon muscled his way through defying the media. It can be done.

Posted by: C.B. Todd on September 24, 2008 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

"McCain is a master of this shell game."

McCain is the shell.

The POW-1 Predator drone is an unprincipled android vehicle (UAV) which the United States Air Force describes as a MALE (media-averse, long-endurance) UAV system. It can serve in a presidential candidate role and can only propose two RNC-EL2008 economic policies (lower corporate taxes and offshore drilling). Outfitted with the latest artificial intelligence technology, the POW-1 can quickly adapt its current policy proposals to any of the current fiscal problems. It is remote-controlled by humans.

Posted by: John Henry on September 24, 2008 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

i dislike ad hominam attacks, but...

is is just me or does rick davis remind anyone else of jar-jar binks?

Posted by: mellowjohn on September 24, 2008 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK


so rick davis is kind of like an economic terrorist...

Posted by: mr. irony on September 24, 2008 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

If you cast your minds back to that distant time, 2006, you might remember how the GOP "handled" the burgeoning Mark Foley page-diddling mess. The obvious thing would have been to throw Denny Hastert under the bus; he looked awful both in his conduct and as the GOP face of the scandal on TV. But they just couldn't do it. Somehow they could not get their minds around the seriousness of their situation, or perhaps they couldn't summon the discipline to cut their losses. Whatever it was, they just stuck with their man all the way to the election, and went down in flames.

McCain might impulsively decide to dump Davis, but my sense is he won't. It would be too much of an admission of mistaken judgment on his own part, and would cripple the campaign right at crunch time when they can't afford to be bringing new leadership up to speed. Not to mention they've decided that anything being said outside Greater Wingnuttia doesn't count, or something. My guess is Davis stays.

To those bemoaning that there's no accountability for Republicans (IOKIYAR), have a gander at the new Post/ABC poll. As I said last week, the effects of the Wall Street meltdown are sinking in, and the McCain-Palin prospects are turning dire. About damn time.

Posted by: jimBOB on September 24, 2008 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Did McCain do any vetting of his campaign staff?

Posted by: Lab Partner on September 24, 2008 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Davis is an example of Washington insider welfare. I believe McCain when he says Davis has had no direct involvement with FM & FM, but that only proves Davis was on the dole from these firms.

Lust for money and power is what McCain means to me! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on September 24, 2008 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

It's really simple to analyze; I might even draft out one of my "Legends of John McCain" with this one.

John McCain = Captain of Titanic.

McCain Campaign = Titanic.

Rick Davis = Iceberg.

Captain denounces icebergs in general.

Titanic hits Iceberg.

Captain fires Iceberg.

Iceberg floats away.

Titanic sinks anyway.

Popcorn gets passed around while everyone watches YouTube reruns of Captain being sucked down into political oblivion by now-completely-unseaworthy Titanic.

See? It's simple....

Posted by: Steve on September 24, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Golly, why would you want McCain to dump the guy who's running his campaign into the ground? Don't all patriotic Americans WANT McCain's campaign to tank?

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on September 24, 2008 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Did McCain do any vetting of his campaign staff?

Yes, he picked the right people for the job. He picked who any Senator of almost three decades would pick: Lobbyists, his bread and butter. But that wasn't good enough, he needed to get the same guys taht destroyed his campaign in 2000, Rovians. He didn't have the double digit lead he expected since it's his turn to be president. In early July, less than one month after Obama finally clinched the Democratic nomination he pulled all stops. He didn't even try to run a decent campaign; straight talk was thrown under the bus as soon as it was politically advantageous. He wanted to "capture" the White House, not actually earn it on merit. Earning merit is what boy scouts do for honor badges. Please. That's so 1950s. He's not trying to run an archaic campaign here, he's looking for the presidency to put on his resumé on the last lap of his career.

Posted by: Mick on September 24, 2008 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

John McCain is in deep shit and he doesn't have the shoes for it!*

Hey, that isn't what $500 Italian loafers are for!

Posted by: Gregory on September 24, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

If he keeps Davis on, he looks dishonest and borderline corrupt.

To those of us who pay attention, even if he cuts Davis loose, he still looks dishonest and borderline corrupt. McCain made Faustian pacts this campaign season; whatever credibility he had as an honorable man was lost weeks and months ago.

That said, to the Republican base, it doesn't matter and they don't care. They will go pull the lever for McCain because the alternative is to allow a Muslim-sympathetic, Gun Controlling, Income Redistributing, Industry Destroying, Iraq War Surrendering Socialist at the helm. And they won't have it.

Posted by: DrDave on September 24, 2008 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

From CNN yesterday: Bill Daley said: "When I was at [telecom company] SBC, I had to hire [McCain campaign manager] Rick Davis to see John McCain," he said. "He wouldn't see anyone unless you hired one of his lobbyist friends. Telecom was his and Rick Davis was his telecom lobbyist. That was in '02, '03, '04."

Posted by: Chicago Guy on September 24, 2008 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

"i dislike ad hominam attacks, but...

is is just me or does rick davis remind anyone else of jar-jar binks?"

If I only had a punch, I'd punch Rick Davis in the jaw, if he only had a jaw.

Posted by: Gideon Ross on September 24, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

The McCain campaign says that Davis hasn't drawn any compensation from his firm since '06. Make sure to ask the right question: Do you mean to say he received no money in the form of salary or on account of his ownership interest in the firm? My guess is that, even if Davis hasn't been receiving a salary, he still receives dividends or profits interests payments based on his continuing equity interest.

Posted by: sidperson on September 24, 2008 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

It is quite obvious that the McCain campaign's strategy is to appeal to the far right in hopes that they will turn out in enough numbers to overwhelm the rest of the country. So Davis will stay and we will get more lies on top of the other lies.

But I think the mainstream conservatives are starting to freak out with McCain's performance on the financial crisis. Do they really want this guy to be the de-facto "commissioner" of Wall Street? I think they are reading the writing on the wall and it is not good. They will turn MSM against him and it will be over.

Posted by: Marko on September 24, 2008 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

If you want to know exactly where McCain is vulnerable, look at whatever his campaign is critisizing about Obama.

Damn straight. By the time the election rolls around I fully expect to find out that McCain is actually a Muslim. And that he has ties to the Weather Underground. This campaign is just that damn weird.

But I think the mainstream conservatives are starting to freak out with McCain's performance on the financial crisis

Yeah. When George Will is talking smack about a "conservative" you know he's in deep trouble. Will's takedown of McCain was fairly brutal - directly striking at McCain's supposed strengths of "experience" and that irrational gut-check response that everyone calls "maverick-y".

Posted by: NonyNony on September 24, 2008 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Will's takedown of McCain was fairly brutal

It was. I was actually feeling sorry for ol' John by the time I got to the end of the article (I used to like him a lot before the sleaze campaign began).

It reminds me of when Judge Jones smacked down those pesky Intelligent Designers: it was so thorough because he didn't want them to ever be able to get back up again. And it worked, too.

Posted by: Marko on September 24, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Well, at least the culture doesn't condone influence peddling. That would be bad.

But influence pedaling sounds like a healthy way to stay fit!

Posted by: Rob S. on September 24, 2008 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

The Davis story was on page 3 of the Seattle Times (AP). It was accompanied by "Slimming down fat paychecks" (NYT) of the executives of firms who would benefit from the proposed bail-out and "FBI probe of finance companies reported" (AP) into potential fraud at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, and Lehman.

In the FBI story the reporter mentions that the FBI is now investigating 26 corporate lenders. Sounds like there's a lot more shoes to drop.

Of course, if the companies have done nothing wrong they have nothing to fear, right? (/snark)

Posted by: Butch on September 24, 2008 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, if the companies have done nothing wrong they have nothing to fear, right? (/snark)

Well, there's some gray area to deal with. The companies were doing what business does: business. There's only so many good investments out there. Due to the housing bubble and the post 9/11 climate of a lot of avaiilable funds, low interset rates, etc - the next step would be to push risky investments - and push and push and push. It was a cash cow, that evaporated and then exploded. Now we need to make an example, but when our system encouraged this... it seems like a double standard to me.

It's like if you open up an area of a city designated for crazy partying (what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas mentality), and revelers get out of hand, do you arrest and lock them up for one day until they sober up? Or do you put them away for 10 years? Of course the answer is to lock up, fire, prosecute to full extent of the law - yet the law makers who were very well connected with these very same institutions will never be put on the hot seat. It's a sham. Look at McCain denouncing everything he helped create and was still an advocate for up to 72 hours ago. If you count the Rick Davis sitution, he never stopped advocating it.

Posted by: Mick on September 24, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

"If he keeps Davis on, he looks dishonest and borderline corrupt."

Borderline? The various articles make it clear that 1. Davis sought out Freddie, not vice versa; 2. The payments weren't for any sort of tangible work, but were a straightforward influence sale. Borderline?

Posted by: Joe Bourgeois on September 24, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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