Sunday, February 24, 2008

Accomplices to John McCain's Hypocrisy

I wonder if poor Michael Kinsley ever feels a twinge of shame. He's exactly the kind of faux liberal, bought off by his corporate masters, that exasperates Bob Somerby to the point of fury. Kinsley, indeed, merits Somerby's sneering epithet, "clown." As the Daily Howler would put it, Kinsley has been clowning around for years, at the expense of real liberals, by touting John McCain as a lovable straight talker who charms the Democratic base, which is so turned off by its own candidates that it is desparately seeking this honest to a fault conservative.

Here's a sampling of Kinsley's blathering on about McCain, like a school girl with a crush on her high school team's starring quarterback:

All successful politicians must have at least some talent for telling lies about what's in their hearts and convincing people that it is the truth. But Sen. John McCain has a unique genius for telling the truth from his heart and making people believe that he is lying. And these people are his supporters! They admire him as a straight-talking truth-teller, and they forgive him for taking positions on big issues that they find repellent, on the grounds that he doesn't really mean what he says.

"Oh, he has to say that to get the Republican nomination," explain many Democrats with a girlish crush on the charming, funny, intelligent and heroic Republican senator from Arizona, and/or a special loathing of their party's own star, the junior senator from New York. "That" might refer to McCain's strong right-to-life stand on abortion, or his strong support for the war in Iraq, or his recent rapprochement with Jerry Falwell. They admire McCain as a straight shooter among sneaks, a truth-teller amid bull artists. They long, understandably, for some fresh air in the fetid atmosphere of politics. And McCain delivers that.
That, at least could be forgiven since it was written in the Washington Post on May 16, 2006. But this latest Valentine to Kinsley's favorite conservative candidate has to be embarrassing even to him. It's titled "Why Liberals Love McCain."

That's actually two years too late.

Liberals do not love McCain and never did. Independents used to love him when they perceived that he really was a straight talker who stood up to special interests, especially those in the Republican Party, and spoke truth to power. They loved him because they thought he was truly an independent, like them.

As Kinsley correctly observes, where McCain's positions diverged from those centrist independents, on issues like abortion, they managed to convince themselves that he actually wasn't really that pro-life, but he just had to say he was to keep the Republican vote. It was a curious view: that McCain was honest, except when he wasn't.

But a lot has changed since even that dynamic was accurate. Yet, in just this week's Time magazine Kinsley writes this:
Republicans have pulled some dirty tricks before: Swift Boats, Watergate, you name it. But this time they have gone too far. In its desperate hunger for victory at any cost, the Republican Party is on the verge of choosing a presidential candidate, John McCain, who is widely regarded (everywhere except inside the Republican Party itself) as honest, courageous, likable and intelligent.
Then he gushes on to conclude with this nonsense:
I cannot believe that a man as fine and decent as McCain would want to become President by the underhanded tactic of accepting the nomination of a party that loves him only for his appeal to the opposition. If McCain were half the principled gentleman he pretends to be, he would drop out now in favor of Rush Limbaugh. Now there's a Republican you can sink your teeth into.
Now, I actually do get it that this was written somewhat tongue in cheek and was meant to be a spoof. But Kinsley is still furthering the impression that there is a dilemma for independent and fair-minded liberals, even though they will vote for the Democrat in the end. What he's spoofing is the supposed situation where liberals really prefer McCain and so are torn between having to support a decent and fair minded Republican with whom they might disagree on a few minor issues or a Democrat whom they hate - notably Hillary.

It's a false dilemma to start with since Barack Obama could well be the nominee and liberals will easily and enthusiastically rally around him. And so will Kinsley's much touted independents. And Obama has the benefit of being the actual straight talker with less or none of McCain's actual history of hypocrisy.

In fact, as revelations in this week's news show, John McCain isn't exactly the straight talker he pretends to be. The truth is that he talks more with a forked tongue.

The New York Times broke the story that John McCain may have had an inappropriate relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, a partner in Alcade and Fay, a firm that lobbies extensively for telecomm interests.

As a current member and former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which the New York Times called "pivotal" for Iseman's clients, this revelation could and should be damaging.

Let me say one important thing. The New York Times tried to play up the romantic angle in McCain's friendship with Iseman. But I'm in agreement with those who would say that that part is irrelevant. Ask yourself, would you be any more comfortable with McCain's coziness with Iseman if she had been a 60 year old, beer bellied golf buddy of McCain's instead of a pretty young woman?

Not me.

What's salient and makes the relationship troubling isn't whether the two had an affair. It's the fact that she was a high level lobbyist whose clientele had so much crucial business before his committee.

What else that's troubling is that McCain denied that his top aides had met with him to warn him that his friendship with Iseman was inappropriate and could appear damaging to the public. Somebody is lying. But here's what the New York Times said (emphasis is mine):

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. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.
In addition, a former high level and trusted top aide, John Weaver, went on record for the New York Times to basically corroborate all this. Again, somebody is lying and the question is, who has more to gain or lose, the former aides or the accused, in distorting the truth?

Here's what else the New York Times said:
A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.
Besides all of this damaging information, as the video from yesterday comically illustrates, McCain has a long history of surrounding himself with lobbyists as his closest advisers, friends, and campaign aids and sometimes even top members of his Senate staff.

His campaign manager, Rick Davis, is founder and managing partner in Davis, Manafort and Freedman. For information on some of their clients and activities, go here.

In addition, according to Firedoglake, who calls Davis an "uber lobbyist," the campaign manager introduced McCain to notorious Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, who had his U.S. visa revoked, at a business conference in Switzerland. Another strong supporter and close adviser to McCain is Charles Black, who has lobbied extensively on behalf of the aviation, broadcasting and tobacco industries.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The problem isn't that McCain, a pro-business, anti-regulatory Republican has political allies who happen to lobby for industries that oppose regulation. Where McCain's difficulties lie is that he has presented himself for too long as the champion of integrity and the foe of special interest lobbyists.

While embarrassing many of his Republican colleagues, who are more honest about their ties, he has garnered the unwarranted veneration of genuine good government reformers, independents and journalists.

It's the journalists and columnists, however, who should be most ashamed. It's not like they haven't known this information. It's that they've ignored it while they've partied on the Straight Talk Express bus and been John McCain's accomplices in hypocrisy.

And none has been more complicit than the hapless faux liberal Michael Kinsley, even this week, even with the most recent revelations about the real John McCain staring him in the face.

So, is Kinsley embarrassed yet? And better yet, is McCain?


Isophorone said...

Let's see how badly Mr. Obama gets embarassed when his rhetoric meets political expediency. I hope you will be as attentive and analytical:

Crystal Clear Conservative said...

It will be interesting to see what will happen to Obama in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. Right now, his polls do not look too hot in OH and PA.

As for McCain, he does have a lot of skeletons in the closet. Initially, I was supporting Fred Thompson until he started to present a lazy front and then after he dropped out, I supported Rudy Giuliani. McCain was a last choice due to his stances.

If Obama gets the nomination for the Democrats, his inexperience in governance will definitely be placed on display and could potentially hurt his chances to win.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Interesting points CCC. BTW, I think I was one of the first Virginia bloggers to write about Thompson as a possible candidate. It was months before he actually announced, when he was still wrapping up episodes of Law & Order.

I did a piece on him as a guest post for Bearing Drift (sorry I can no longer find the link since Jim Hoeft updated his site).

At the time, I had given up blogging and Jim enticed me to do a few guest posts for BD. There's no accounting for the man's taste but he's the one who actually got me back to blogging so if you hate what I write, blame him :)

Anyway, I thought that Thompson had a lot of promise, or threat, depending on your point of view. I was very surprised when his candidacy fizzled the way it did.

He seemed so promising that I wanted to warn my fellow Dems to take him very seriously. I guess I mistook him for Arthur Branch.

As for Guliani, you actually wouldn't have wanted him if you were really conservative.

Although he was excellent during 9/11, he really doesn't share your values on much of anything else. Believe me, McCain, with all his baggage, is closer to conservatives in values than either Mitt Romney or Guiliani ever were.

And Iso, I most assuredly will be watching. Thanks for those links, which I've already read. You do know that McCain is also looking at getting out of the public financing with all its limitations. It was reported in yesterday's Washington Post, here:

BTW, I'm adding both of you to my blogroll. I'm enough of a contrarian to enjoy a carnival of differing opinions.

Thanks for stopping by.

Isophorone said...


I would add that the Wall Street Journal wryly made note of the box into which John McCain has painted himself.

And thanks for adding me to your blogroll! I'll have to add both of you soon.

Like CCC, I first supported Thompson and then Giuliani. Well, I REALLY supported Bobby Jindal, but he's not running . . . :(