The McCain Feeding Frenzy

Ken AshfordElection 2008Leave a Comment

NY Daily News:

Get ready for a feeding frenzy, with the press as the sharks and John McCain as the bloody chum…

All that said, the political damage to McCain will be considerable. His lawyer and staff issued fiery denunciations of The Times last night and swore McCain never violated the high principles for which he is known.

The campaign also said McCain would address the article today in a public appearance, but one aide said McCain would not take questions. That would be a gigantic mistake that would feed the media’s hunger and suggest a level of guilt. Like a suspect invoking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination, McCain would be suggesting he has something to hide.

However McCain handles the story, it’s not going to be a pretty sight. Then again, with numerous surprises in the campaign so far, it’ll be par for the wacky course.

WaPo and Howard Kurtz

The Times has an on-the-record confirmation from John Weaver, McCain’s former top strategist, regarding an aide to the senator warning Iseman at a Union Station meeting to stay away from the boss. Weaver e-mailed that he arranged the meeting after "a discussion among the campaign leadership" about her…

The McCain/Bennett strategy, of course, is to make the Times the issue. The senator’s statement doesn’t deny any of the specifics in the piece.

As for the political fallout, the issue should be the confirmable facts and what they say, or don’t say, about McCain’s run for the presidency. In Bill Clinton’s case it turned out to be quite relevant, and he had sexual relations with that woman, and some others. In this case, we have two people who deny such a relationship.

And there’s over 500 other stories as well.

CBS: Starting Gate: McCain’s First Test

CNN: McCain denies inappropriate relationship with lobbyist

Houston Chronicle: McCain’s ties to female lobbyist in question

Seattle Times: McCain lobbyist ties ruffled aides in 1999

Bloomberg: NY Times reports on McCain link with lobbyist

Here’s my take on the whole thing, something I haven’t heard anyone suggest.

Let’s say your John McCain, the persumptive nominee for the GOP for the presidency.

You don’t exactly know who your Democratic opponent is, but you know it is going to be a tough battle.  It’s like to get personal; it’s likely to get ugly.

You believe that character and ethics will be an issue, because character and ethics are always an issue at some point.

You know there is this story about you and this lobbyist.  It know the other side (or the liberal media) will use it at some point.

When then is the best time to have this story — even if it is false — come to the fore?  The week before the general election?  The month before?

Nope, the best time is now.  Get the rumor out there, deny it, let people speculate, and move on.  In one month, it will go away.

Conclusion: I think the McCain people are behind this story, or at least welcoming it now (as opposed to later).

I also think it "helps" McCain in shoring up the conservative base.  I mean, even McCain hater Rush Limbaugh is calling out the New York Times.  Nothing motivates and unites the conservative base like the "drive-by librul" media.

That said, I think the AP version of the Iseman story touches on something less titillating, but less innuendo-based, and potentially damaging for real:

In late 1999, McCain twice wrote letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Florida-based Paxson Communications — which had paid Iseman as its lobbyist — urging quick consideration of a proposal to buy a television station license in Pittsburgh. At the time, Paxson’s chief executive, Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson, also was a major contributor to McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign. McCain did not urge the FCC commissioners to approve the proposal, but he asked for speedy consideration of the deal, which was pending from two years earlier. In an unusual response, then-FCC Chairman William Kennard complained that McCain’s request "comes at a sensitive time in the deliberative process" and "could have procedural and substantive impacts on the commission’s deliberations and, thus, on the due process rights of the parties."

McCain wrote the letters after he received more than $20,000 in contributions from Paxson executives and lobbyists. Paxson also lent McCain his company’s jet at least four times during 1999 for campaign travel.

In other words, McCain intervened in a federal regulatory process on behalf of a company, after receiving contributions and favors from that company.

Democracy for sale?

Sure looks like it.