McCain's Bimbo Eruption?

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The New York Times has uncorked a lengthy, long-awaited, weirdly written, (mostly) anonymously sourced, six-reporter article about John McCain that people will remember mostly for hinting in a not-quite-convincing way that he was having an extra-marital affair in the late 1990s with a telecom lobbyist three decades his junior. Before getting to the semi-salacious business, it may be useful before reading the whole thing to consider the lawyerized mess as three overlapping stories in one:

1) John McCain, despite two decades of railing against lobbyists and running on personal rectitude, has a long history of associating with lobbyists and doing special favors for big donors. This is by far the biggest chunk of the article, and pretty much nothing in it is new. (To read more details about the nexus between McCain, lobbyists, and campaign contributors, read past pieces by U.S. News & World Report, Politico, the Wall Street Journal, City Journal, and reason twice.)

2) Several McCain aides were worried enough about his close relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman during the 2000 campaign that they told her to get lost. This sounds plausible.

3) Maybe they were having an affair?

The attacks on this article will focus on door #3, and how the Times tries inartfully to link it back to #1. For a version that actually just focuses on the pretty interesting question of #2, go straight to the sexless Washington Post.

Without further ado, here's the NYT beef:

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. […]

That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator's advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.

A former campaign adviser described being instructed to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a Senate aide recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman's access to his offices.

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.

Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after "a discussion among the campaign leadership" about her.

"Our political messaging during that time period centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation's interests before either personal or special interest," Mr. Weaver continued. "Ms. Iseman's involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort."

Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation was only about "her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made its way back to us." He declined to elaborate.

The Kremlinology here is all about the on-the-record quotes from John Weaver, McCain's former right-hand man who was ousted last July after a bitter struggle. There's a lot of acrimony and half-buried bodies near the dissolution of that particular relationship, I've always been told.

McCain's team is blowing the dog whistle of "New York Times" and "smear," and that should work well enough, but they're going way too far in trying to claim that, as McCain capo Bob Bennett said on Hannity & Colmes, "I cannot find, nor can they, a single instance where John McCain did something contrary to his beliefs." Or, as campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said,

John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists

This is a lie disprovable many times over by McCain's own writings. For instance, this bit in his most recent book about doing special favors for Charles Keating himself:

I did so for no other reason than I valued [Charles Keating's] support. … Had I weighed the question of honor it occasioned and the public interest more than my personal interest to render a small service to an important supporter, I would not have attended the meeting. … I lacked humility and an inspiration to some purpose higher than self-interest.

There's no doubt about it—selling yourself as a preternatural straight-talker while simultaneously participating in the hurly-burly of politics requires almost comical and constant hyperbole.

But what of the charges themselves? Those who really care about such things have known since at least 2000, and likely much earlier, that McCain does favors for campaign contributors, and has not always been the most faithful of husbands. I care not at all about the latter; while the former is one of many constant, low-level irritants people like me experience when reading yet another newspaper editorial about what a saint the guy is. The only thing new today is the name and details of a specific woman deemed by McCain's 2000 campaign as particularly radioactive for whatever reason.

What about the newspapers? Clearly, there is an interesting story-behind-the-story, which The New Republic says it will detail tomorrow, for whatever that's worth. I think the Post story kicks the Times' behind, and was certainly worth printing. But their combined impact, I guess, will mostly be limited to people who haven't heard stuff like this about McCain before. In the scheme of things, knowing that the 2000 campaign got the heebies about a galpal lobbyist is not the biggest issue in the world.

NEXT: Maybe He Is Another Reagan

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  1. ahh, TNR, the emerging tabloid of cheap poorly researched gotcha stories…

  2. Well, it certainly is a smear, but it’s a trivial one, and the evidence is rather scant. He didn’t lie under oath, and the woman in question isn’t even as attractive as his wife, so there’s no Donna Rice potential here.

    What I would like to hear more about is the Keating Five scandal, since it actually matters.

    -jcr

  3. I had thought that it was going to take Huckabee to crack the conservative/libertarian alliance. I earnestly await the libertarian paradise that this country will be after two years under President “Cult of Personality” Obama, two democrat-controlled houses of congress, and two new “the constitution means what we say it means” surpreme court justices.

    At least all the guns and gold coins that a certain segment of the libertarian constituency has buried in the yard will have become signifcantly more valuable.

    The “First war of Alaskan Secession” should make for good T.V., though.

  4. President “Cult of Personality” Obama

    Obama strikes me as similar to Jimmy Carter before he became a failed president. He seems nice enough, and that’s enough to make him stand out in his chosen profession.

    He’s going to win in a landslide, not because of any merit of his own, but rather due to a combination of the democrat’s relief at dodging the HIllary bullet, and the Republican’s half-hearted support of their own candidate.

    McCain is no Ronald Reagan. Hell, he’s not even as charismatic as GWB used to be.

    -jcr

  5. All true, just ask Eric Dondero.

  6. McCain basically uses ‘honor’ in a context where most people would just say ‘moral’ or ‘right’. It’s kind of a disturbing, as honor can in fact have all sorts of immoral, or at least amoral connotations. I don’t know quite how to pin this down, but something about the way he always uses the word seems to point to why the national greatness types love him.

  7. I love the thought SuperMike, I’d be on the front lines of that war, supremely physically unprepared, and probably cost our side some lives.

    However, it shan’t come to pass, I don’t think we’ll be allowed to opt out too easily:

    “Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed… You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eights years from now, you will have to be engaged.”

    Man I’m excited. That sounds great.

  8. Hannity went nuts over the Times “smear,’ apparently thinking the article was a daily news story, and not part of the NYT series about character and backgrounds of the candidates. But in his ignorance, Hannity seems to think the Times is pimping for Obama, He should read what the Times said about in a similar article that raked up all of Obama’s youthful drug use. The article strongly implies Obama overstated — to the point of lying? — his drug use. Don’t care about the drugs, but I do care if he lied in his autobiography. It is the worst I have heard about him.

  9. McCain’s aides thought he had honor.

    Or maybe they thought he was on her.

    Anyway, at least the Republicans didn’t saddle themselves with a morally-tainted candidate like Dr. Ron (“Party Boy”) Paul.

  10. Like the fist of an angry Senator.

  11. The “First war of Alaskan Secession” should make for good T.V., though.

  12. This is just hilarious from so many different angles.

    1. It makes McCain, a tired, old grey-haired boring guy, look out to be a Ladies’ man. This could actually help him in the election.

    2. It makes the liberal media look so lame. Americans can see right through this. 8 years ago? Sheesh! And there’s no evidence that he did indeed have a sexual relationship with her.

    You can do better than that NY Times.

  13. I’m not buying any of it. Based on the timing of the article, I see it as nothing more than the NYT helping McCain clean the dirt from closet – a form of money laundering if you will. The timing for this type of article is perfect. He’s got the nomination in the bag and more than eight months to go until the election. This so-called “bombshell” will be a one news cycle story and then it will be buried forever. Americans have incredibly short memories or are just completely insensitive to these types of stories.

    Even more telling is the fact that the NYT and the many local newspapers that it owns all endorsed McCain, which gave him an incredible boost in the primaries. You could say that McCain is in fact the New York Times’ Boy. Moreover, McCain won virtually all of the endorsements from the thousands of local newspapers under these media behemoths: McClatchy News, Gannett News, Tribune News, New York Times Co., and the Washington Post Co.

    To say that the NYT is smearing McCain is an absolute joke considering how much they’ve invested in him, not mention the fact that they could’ve have easily run this story prior to the start of the primary season.

  14. “”What I would like to hear more about is the Keating Five scandal, since it actually matters.“”

    Amen to that, how about the good drug war question:
    ‘Mr McCain, would we, as a society be better served if your wife was in jail serving time at the taxpayer expense, and with a felony on her record?’

    Because if the answer is “no”, then why is the answer “yes” for so many other people?

  15. Look, it is beyond dispute that McCain is an adulterer. Everyone openly admits he betrayed his crippled first wife with Cindy, before he abandoned her and married #2.

    So there’s really no point in claiming McCain is not an adulterer.

    Maybe he didn’t bone this particular lobbyskank, but that’s neither here nor there.

  16. …two new “the constitution means what we say it means” surpreme court justices…

    Not for nothing, but isn’t this kind of like ragging on someone for following their job description?

  17. One of the morning shows ran some file footage of McCain and wife from around the time of the alleged affair. Cindy McCain had brunette hair heavily streaked with white and gray, cut in that short way women her age have a tendency to go for. Now she has long hair, dyed lemon blond–almost the exact shade of the lobbyist possible girlfriend.

    I draw no conclusions, but the psychology of it is interesting.

    (I’m going to submit this in my portfolio when I go get a sleazy tabloid job.)

  18. Dondero are you supporting McCain now? I hope so. It would be nice to se

  19. the rest of my comment that the squirrels ate was:

    It would be nice to see McCain crash and burn.

  20. when reading yet another newspaper editorial about what a saint the guy is

    McCain is not a saint. He is a hero. He will stop Sylar from blowing up New York. Save the cheerleader lobbyist, save the world.

  21. Obama’s not Jimmy Carter, he’s George McGovern. Once George finally had a private sector business that could get sued out of existence by trail lawyers, he suddenly became MUCH more business-friendly.

    And I can’t imagine TNR doing a well-timed hit piece against a Republican! That just sounds impossible!! 😉
    JMR

  22. Doing John McCain is WAY above and beyond the call of duty for a lobbyist. Hope she’s getting paid well.

  23. He will stop Sylar from blowing up New York.

    Hey. Hot Peppermint Tea *hurts* when it spurts out of your nose, asshole. 🙂

  24. It’s time for the media and voters to grow up about “favors for special interests.” We should all recognize that a “special interest” isn’t necessarily evil. A Libertarian senator would listen to special interests and become friendly with some of them too. Is it improper for your congressman to help straighten out a problem your mom has with her social security check? Does he tell you to take a hike or try to put you in touch with a person who can solve the problem? And if the “special interest” is a small businessman whose property is about to be eminent domained to benefit Microsoft, is your elected official supposed to stay neutral? And how are elected officials supposed to learn the ins and outs of all sides of complex issues unless they listen to the lobbyists and try to figure out which side comports with the official’s view of government’s role? After a time, of course
    any principled office holder is going to end up siding with certain special interests all the time. I certainly expect an elected libertarian to do so.

  25. Elemenope,

    Wasn’t it just the other day you were mocking a few people for thinking you were a woman?

    Hot Peppermint Tea

    So which is it?

  26. Hey. Hot Peppermint Tea *hurts* when it spurts out of your nose, asshole. 🙂

    If you were drinking whiskey, you wouldn’t care.

  27. The rest of the NYT story is being lost, because the teevee nooz idiots only care about the nookie, so they are more than happy to let McCain flacks come on and denounce “this story” – meaning, the nookie – and not follow up with any questions about McCain’s relationship with lobbyists.

  28. If you were drinking whiskey, you wouldn’t care.

    I wholeheartedly agree. However, it is difficult to drink whiskey with complete abandon at work, which is where I am. They’re laid back, but not *that* laid back.

    Wasn’t it just the other day you were mocking a few people for thinking you were a woman?

    Mocking? No. I was just surprised that some people read me as a woman.

    BTW, Mint tea is a *manly* drink. Like prune juice. It’s really not my damn fault the British fucked up tea for the rest of us.

  29. So okay: It was news to me (mostly) and I am a political junkie. That should tell you how high the wall has been built in the press to protect the image of McCain. That’s what’s newsworthy: the wall has been breached. And once one MSM outlet breaches, the others almost certainly have to follow. I don’t particularly relish this aspect of media, but let’s remember, it’s the “hands off we can’t say anything bad about the guy” attitude that is probably more harmful to the public, at least. Some kinds of truth (adultery) probably shouldn’t be relevant, and knowing about them, individuals can certainly decide that they are not — but deciding not to tell the facts about McCain’s personal and professional relationships with lobbyists when they directly contradict “received truth” about him is really dishonest.

  30. the British fucked up tea for the rest of us

    Sort of what they did to the former manliest of neck wear: the lace cravat.

  31. Mint tea is good for your stomach, but Elemenope is still a pussy. Yeah, that’s right. You’re a pussy for not drinking whiskey at work.

  32. Epi, you could follow in joe’s footsteps and start calling him “Penelope.”

  33. You mean Elemenope isn’t a woman? I once knew a girl with that screenname, so maybe that’s why I thought otherwise.

  34. joe called him Penelope? Hey, that’s pretty good. Nice one, joe. Better would have been LMNOPussy. Yeah, that’s right. For not drinking at work.

  35. Finally, a trait in McCain I can admire in a president..

  36. joe called him Penelope? Hey, that’s pretty good. Nice one, joe. Better would have been LMNOPussy. Yeah, that’s right. For not drinking at work.

    I guess I’ll just have to man up. Now, where’s that bottle…

    And people say that you can just say no to peer pressure. Hah!

  37. Make sure you post after getting hammered. I need more amusement. It’s a shame you aren’t a chick, as we could then pressure you to show us your tits.

  38. A Libertarian senator would…

    That’s a nice story. Now tell us a story about unicorns or manticores or some other creatures that never were or will be.

  39. Eric Donardo is right. No one is going to care. This is about on the level as Bush I’s alleged mistress. No one on either side would have cared if Bill Clinton had been banging Connie Chung or some lobbiest chick sent to whore herself out in the name of the cause. There is a reason why they call it the fleshpots of Washington and you rarely see an ugly woman working on capital hill.

    My theory is that Matt Welch secretly had a sex change operation and went into deep cover in the late 90s to finally get his revenge on McCain.

  40. Look, it is beyond dispute that McCain is an adulterer. Everyone openly admits he betrayed his crippled first wife with Cindy, before he abandoned her and married #2.

    So there’s really no point in claiming McCain is not an adulterer.

    Maybe he didn’t bone this particular lobbyskank, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Well, boning the lobbyskank is a lot more lurid than boning the future replacement wife.

  41. There has to be a porn movie somewhere in this whole story. With younger participants, of course.

  42. “Lobbyskank” is going to be the next great politico-satirical hair metal band.

    First album? Lurid Boning.

  43. That’s a nice story. Now tell us a story about unicorns or manticores or some other creatures that never were or will be.

    Somewhat apropos: Manticores?

  44. I don’t know John, have you seen some of the women on Capitol Hill? It’s not exactly Rio.

  45. or some other creatures that never were or will be.

    Once upon a time, a Internet commenter named only “The” met a woman that agreed to let him fumble at her ladyparts without charging a fee…

  46. “I don’t know John, have you seen some of the women on Capitol Hill? It’s not exactly Rio.”

    Some of the older ones are not hot. But the staffers I deal with who are under 40 are generally hot as hell and dumb as posts. I don’t say that to be sexists because the staffers on both sides of the isle tend to know just enough to be dangerous about a given subject.

  47. I don’t know John, have you seen some of the women on Capitol Hill? It’s not exactly Rio.

    I have found a shockingly disproportionate number of lookers orbiting around politics.

    Now, your civil service types tend toward disillusioned and dumpy, but your “aides” and “assistants” and “volunteers” can be quite yummy.

  48. …hinting in a not-quite-convincing way that he was having an extra-marital affair in the late 1990s with a telecom lobbyist three decades his junior.

    Men are dogs. Those of us who are self aware admit it. 30 years younger though? That’s me with a 22 year old. A one night stand I could see myself doing (and regretting), but an affair? Hardly. Standard Libertarian Disclaimer #1 (libertarian ? libertine) applies.

  49. Sorry no pics. But you know what this story really means? Another old woman in Playboy. How long before this woman agrees to take it off for a few million?

  50. any principled office holder is going to end up siding with certain special interests all the time. I certainly expect an elected libertarian to do so.

    And lobbyists will naturally gravitate towards politicians that are sympathetic to their views. The NRA is not going to wine and dine Henry Waxman.

  51. All the News That’s Fit to Pimp

  52. Look, it is beyond dispute that McCain is an adulterer. Everyone openly admits he betrayed his crippled first wife with Cindy, before he abandoned her and married #2.

    I cheated on my first wife. I self-justified it at the time. It hardly makes me an evil or dishonorable person. None of us know the dynamics of the first McCain marriage, so we should just “butt the hell out”.

  53. I’d agree with you J sub D but she was a lobbyist too so you get into conflicts of interest.

  54. I’m with Don A. on this one. This is definately closet cleaning. And I have to admit I may have been wrong when I told Welch that the “democratic propaganda machine” exclusively helps Democrats. The Times may fear that an Oboma administration might be so miserable that it is better to support an establishment centrist than letting the Democrat party take a bad whack.

  55. I cheated on my first wife. I self-justified it at the time. It hardly makes me an evil or dishonorable person.

    Perhaps not. But it absolutely, incontrovertibly makes you an adulterer.

    All that I’m saying is that the indignation coming out of the Republican noise machine about how McCain has been “smeared” or “slurred” seems a bit overboard, when you consider the fact that calling McCain an adulterer is not new news.

    “How dare the NY Times call McCain an adulterer! What a smear!” Um, that’s what he is. It’s a bit late in the day for McCain or his supporters to be indignant about it.

  56. I didn’t call him “Penelope.” I refered to him as “she,” and when asked why I assumed he was female, I answered that it was probably because “ELEMENOPE” looks a bit like “Penelope.”

    As for Capitol hill, the female staffers are disproportionately hawt. If you see a rotund woman with bad skin and stringy hair, that’s who you have to look out for, because if they keep a woman staffer around who isn’t eye candy, there’s a damn good reason.

  57. If this is what it looks like, it sure points the hypocrisy of prostitution being illegal. “Gee we need to lobby the Senator, Joan is about his age. Joan you are going to have to do some overtime, some of it on your back.”

  58. Perhaps not. But it absolutely, incontrovertibly makes you an adulterer.

    Yep, it does. I’m not proud of it, I should have gotten the divorce first. As an adulterer and an amateur observer of human nature, I strongly suspect I’m in the majority. Still wrong, but hardly unique.

  59. “Yep, it does. I’m not proud of it, I should have gotten the divorce first. As an adulterer and an amateur observer of human nature, I strongly suspect I’m in the majority. Still wrong, but hardly unique”

    True and the only person you owe a debt to is your ex-wife. It is none of the rest of our business. Unless your mistress was a subordinate and you somehow abused your authority or put other people at risk by banging her, it is yours and your ex wife’s issue not mine or anyone else’s.

  60. I wonder what Russ Meyer would have thought of John McCain. On one hand, they were/are both proud war veterans. But McCain’s pandering to Charles Keating would probably make Russ go beserk, given the blood feud that took place between the two.

    On the other other hand, if McCain was indeed screwing around on his wife, Meyer would probably consider that perfectly natural. As long as the woman was, you know, STACKED.

  61. “On the other other hand, if McCain was indeed screwing around on his wife, Meyer would probably consider that perfectly natural. As long as the woman was, you know, STACKED.”

    If you are going to screw around at least make the risk worth while. Nothing more pathetic than a man with an ugly mistress.

  62. If you are going to screw around at least make the risk worth while. Nothing more pathetic than a man with an ugly mistress.

    Sorry, but this had to be done after John’s post.

  63. gotta love it, a bunch of politico-junkies ranting on and on about McCain’s ethics when HILLARY CLINTON is in the race. have fun guys, enjoy the kool-aid…..

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