Thursday, February 21, 2008

What Price The Quest—Redux (A Return To Form?)

“You, you got what I need but you say she's just a friend And you say she's just a friend...”

In comments yesterday in the original “Unconscious” post on Obama downpage a piece, ohhhh...say about 2:40 p.m., one of our readers—moonglum said the following in reference to wingnuts poking about Barck Obama's past for “dirt”:

...Some of the best dirt diggers in the industry have been searching...all they got was "he bought a house for fair market value"...its rather pathetic....

It sparked a little discussion in the thread about opposition research and dirt-digging in the political campaigns—for example, the newly hatched (I'm thinking not-so-newly) 527 group tasked with blow-gunning the Obama elctoral balloon. There was talk about a post-primary “implosion” by McCain as the election-season continued to heat up.

Ladies and Gentlemen...“The roof, the roof...THE ROOF IS ON FI-YAH!”...

WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

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.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Ohhhhhhh, my, my, my, myyyyy.

I held on this bombshell waiting for a bit more info to pop out, and sure as shootin', at just before nine a.m. today, McCain in his best “I'm gonna face this shit down” mode went before the press and stiffly (even for him) denied the reports with flat “No's” and a particularly odd, ass-covering rejoinder to a pointed question:

Reporter: No staffer was ever concerened about a possible romantic relationship?

McCain: If they were, they did not communicate that to me.

He denied, denied, denied, then went off on a potentially advantageous (to attract the knuckle-dragging “Ah hates citified, librul smart stuff” wingnut base) “Bash the liberal NY Times” mantra that's been picked up by his conservative co-horts in the media, as the Times has dug in its heels with editor Bill Keller standing by the story it statements since it broke.

A story that according to pundits, has been wafting about like a tent-trapped fart in D.C. since December. That should tell you an awful lot about how these Beltway types operate in the way they circle the wagons, protect each other, and yes, spike stories based on timing factors and access issues. The Times was supposedly pressured to hold the report lest it needlessly damage McCain's chances in the Iowa contest several weeks ago.

“Reach-around”, anyone?

When the media supposedly “loves” you and paints fawning word portraits of you in return for hearty backslaps and free beer and pretzels on the campaign bus, it can come back to bite you on the ass at the most inopporune of times. Like just as you're trying to cement your bona-fides with rank-and-file conservative voters who you haven't sold on your candidacy as yet. “Why won't Mike Huckabee go away?” many McCain backers have been saying in recent days.

Perhaps it's because in spite of ol' Huck's cornpone-y, Andy Taylor-speak, even he gets the gossip 411 from the ladies at the switchboard office in Mt. Pilot. Cue a peculiar bit of foreshadowing by Governor Huckabee from about a week ago.

Transcript of press statement by Huckabee after Feb 12th Primaries:

QUESTION: Governor, tonight Senator McCain's camp, Jill Hazelbaker, said that it is mathematically impossible for Governor Huckabee to secure the nomination. You said the other day that you majored in miracles, not math. Has anyone on your campaign staff done any of their own delegate math? Would you be able to comment on that?

MR. HUCKABEE: I mean, we understand, in terms of the conventional process, barring, you know, some something that could happen along the way in the campaign for Senator McCain, or if he doesn't acquire enough delegates, that's really the possibility, that it could go to the convention.

If you think Mike Huckabee didn't catch wind of this story from people unfriendly to Johnny Mac, I'll eat a medium-rare squirrel burger on a bed of mustard greens.

But this story gets at other things, too. For example, it rehashes the image of McCain as a D.C. wheeler-dealer of some standing. Chillin' with the lobbyists, doin' favors for the lobbyists...possibly even bumpin' uglies with the lobbysist. The hell with Jack Abramoff—did a lobbyist (God forgive me...) Jack Johnny off?

I wrote this in the “What Price The Quest?” McCain post:

Life would grow fragile. A marriage would end after several affairs and a final, advantageous liaison with a wealthy, connected daughter of industry as his career in the armed services petered out (He'd retire as a captain). He'd fallen in with a political circle as a Navy liaison to the Senate and would then curry favor in his now-new wife's family's business circles as a base to launch his own political career from.

What this story does is at the worst possible time manage to re-open the old wounds of McCain's long-time “playersim”—and I mean it in both senses of the word:

1.) His playerism in terms of his dealing fast and loose with the lines of propriety in congressional ethics—i.e. his entanglement in the S&L scandals of the 80's, and his insiderism in dealing with lobbyists and special interests that have prevailed upon him. I guarantee you that as I write this, half the grasping comers in the D.C. press corp are digging through his voting record and cross-referencing it with congressional records on whose company plane he rode and where.

And 2.) His well-known, but pish-poshed in Beltway canapé circles carnal “playersim”. It's amazing how people will pull the monkey-face “hear no evil” routine when it's convenient, and how for all the gnashing of teeth about Bill Clinton's peccadilloes, what remarkably little has been said about McCain's notorious reputation for ass-grabbery through much of his adult life. He himself admits to it —in his own words:

"My marriage's collapse was attributable to my own selfishness and immaturity more than it was to Vietnam, and I cannot escape blame by pointing a finger at the war. The blame was entirely mine."His wife Carol would later echo those sentiments, saying "I attribute [the breakup of our marriage] more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again than I do to anything else."

I would seriously doubt that the Senator's staff would go so far out of their way, and potentially incur his infamous wrath in engaging in such a creepy and blatant cock-block unless there was something worrisome to consider. And I doubt the Times would run with this story without sieving this through multi-layers of lawyering to cover their asses post-the Jayson Blair/Judith Miller fact-check gaffes.

My guess is that they're dangling another shoe off the end of their ink-stained foot. They've got more. Probably ugly stuff they're waiting to spring like a bunny trap. If McCain keeps biting hard on that “They're lying about me!” carrot, and then pulls the string—he's liable to drop the trap's box (more facts, supportive of the original claim and then some) right on his head, trapping him, damaging him, and quite possibly scuttling his campaign. A-gain

What it has done is suck the air out of a new cycle that should be talking about his “inevitbility” and left instead a sordid vacuum of “He did what with who?” water-cooler talk.

It's also handed a big, fat, ribbon-topped gift to whoever his opponent will be (“should he survive this”—Huckabee mutters as an under his-fried- squirrel-breath prayer) in the general election. The 30-year *D.C. insider. Lobbyists, back-room deals, one hand washing the other...I can see the ad...

“John all sorts of ways”

Ohhhhhhh, my, my, my, myyyyy.

From the “What Price” post noted earlier:

“It seems our opponents have already made a choice of champion. So while we kick our own asses grabbing at the fleeting thrill of Varsity glory/ avoiding the agony of JV ignominy, there he stands in the tunnel—the other team's “choice”, awaiting us. Awaiting America.

An immensely flawed “choice”.

Dangerously flawed, in fact.

Yes, I said dangerously flawed. And there's not a whit of hyperbole in that phrase.

Let's dig into the phrase itself for a second though—shall we?

dangerous (dān'jər-əs)
1. Involving or filled with danger; perilous.
2. Being able or likely to do harm..


flawed (flô'd)
1. Imperfect, in an often concealed way that impairs soundness.

Dangerously flawed. Keep a note of that. It's not a meme.

It's the truth.

(*GNB hereby claims dibs on the “D.C. Inside-Her” headline you'll probaby see somewhere soon. Nyah-nyah, Daily Show!)