Friday, May 09, 2008

John McCain Falls Off the Straight Talk Express and Splits His Tongue

It’s now forked, as in “he speaks with forked tongue.” And Arianna Huffington exposed that new, less than straight talking politician in this May 5th report on the Huffington Post.

She has taken a lot of flack for her diary, in which she exposes the fact that John and Cindy McCain told her at a dinner party that they had not voted for President Bush in 2000.

According to Ms. Huffington, she decided to go public with this conversation because the John McCain she once admired – the genuine straight talker and reformer – was long gone. Candidate John McCain, in the 2008 race, has embraced the social and religious conservatives he once decried, and who shunned and slandered him in 2000. To win this year’s presidential election, McCain has flip flopped on issues such as immigration reform, tax cuts, and the environment.

Yet the media have given him a free pass on his reversals on these issues and even his close and personal ties to powerful lobbyists. As Arianna Huffington wrote in her post (all emphasis in this and subsequent quotes is mine):
McCain's fall has been Shakespearean -- and really hard to watch for those, like myself, who so admired and even loved him. His nobility and his true reformer years have given way to pandering in the service of ambition.

But a large portion of the electorate hasn't noticed the Shakespearean fall. How else to explain The 28/48 Disconnect -- wherein only a die-hard 28 percent of voters still approve of Bush, but 48 percent say they'd vote for McCain, who is running on the "more of the same" platform?

The thing is, these voters clearly still think of McCain as the maverick of 2000, a straight shooter who would never seek the embrace of a man he couldn't bring himself to vote for, nor accept the regular counsel of Karl Rove, the man behind the vile, race-baiting attacks on him during the 2000 campaign.

And the main reason for The 28/48 Disconnect is the mainstream media's ongoing membership in the John McCain Protection Society. They too continue to party -- and report on McCain -- like it's 1999.

Look at the slack they cut him after his infamous stroll through a Baghdad market was revealed as an utter sham. James Frey was eviscerated for far less. Or the slack they cut him after his repeated confusion of Sunni and Shia. Or the slack they cut him when his promise to run a "respectful" campaign ran aground on his sleazy attempt to connect Barack Obama and Hamas.

Every time McCain screws up, the media jump all over themselves to make it better, as if grandpa had said something embarrassing at the dinner table and it needed to be smoothed over as quickly as possible.
Almost falling all over themselves to prove her point about the media giving McCain a pass, Howard Kurt, in covering the Huffington Post diary for the Washington Post blog, The Trail, concluded with a quote from Tucker Bounds, a McCain spokesman:

"It's not true, and I ask you to please consider the source."

Asked why Huffington would make up her story about McCain not voting for Bush, longtime McCain aide Mark Salter -- who has previously tangled with the Huffington Post -- ripped into her. "Why would she make something up? Because she's a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva. And that's on the record."
Jack Tapper, from ABC-TV News, on his website, Political Punch, asks readers, “Do you believe her?”

Of course the implication from both Kurtz and Tapper, in their original reports, was that readers shouldn’t. The current media meme is that John McCain is the trustworthy one, not his critics, such as Ms. Huffington.

The problem with that media narrative, though, is that Arianna Huffington was telling the truth, not John McCain, Tucker Bounds or Mark Salter. It turns out there were witnesses at that dinner party, which was at the home of actress Candice Bergen.

Brad Whitford and Richard Schiff, two actors who starred in The West Wing and who were present, heard McCain’s remarks. As reported in today’s New York Times:

Mr. Whitford, who played Josh Lyman, the deputy White House chief of staff on the NBC series, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he was sitting across from Mr. McCain and next to Ms. Huffington at the small dinner and that he was startled to hear the senator sharply criticize Mr. Bush. The senator has long blamed the Bush campaign for smear tactics against his family in the 2000 South Carolina primary, but by the end of the campaign Mr. McCain was publicly supporting his rival.

McCain was just sort of going off on how much he disliked Bush and the horrible things that the Bush campaign had done to his family in South Carolina, and his exasperation with Bush about his ridiculous tax cuts and he really wanted to talk to him about it, but he said the guy doesn’t have the concentration, and you talk for 10minutes and then the guy wants to talk about baseball,” Mr. Whitford said.
And the Washington Post:

Both men said they were struck by McCain's openness at the dinner, which was -- in Whitford's words -- "deep in the belly of the Hollywood liberal beast." But they added they were disappointed at his subsequent embrace of President Bush.

"It's clear what he's doing; he needs the Republican Party in order to get elected," Whitford said. "The only thing is, that's just being a politician, not being a straight talker."
And that’s why this whole kerfuffle matters. It’s not whom McCain and his wife voted for in 2000 – heck, I’d commend him for not voting for Bush. But his denial of it and willingness to paint Arianna Huffington as a liar and a flake is part of the new 2008 John McCain. He’s the one who fell off the Straight Talk Express, split and forked his tongue, embraced his party’s hard right, and will say and do anything to get elected.


Silence Dogood said...

If I were to take his assertion that he never said he voted against GWB at face value for even just one second, I'd still wonder how the hell he ended up at a dinner party with Arianna Huffington and two actors from the West Wing in Hollywood. This is the supposedly-hardcore neo-conservative pander-bear who's courting the religious right?

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Before he was a hardcore neo-conservative pander bear who's courting the religious right, he was a moderate, independent-minded maverick who reached across the aisle to work with Democrats as well as Republicans.

He actually was quite popular in Hollywood during his independent maverick period. I'm sure a lot of celebrities miss that John McCain, who, alas, exists no more.

Unfortunately, the media isn't even aware that he's flipped flopped.