Campaigns/Elections

Maverickology

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Because of the New York Times' shoddy execution, and the fact that the real underlying story (not the evidence-lite romantic speculation) is an A27 jobbie at best, the McCain-lobbyist "scandal" 30 hours later has become largely a debate about journalism and even a textbook example of political damage control and base-rallying.

But that doesn't mean there aren't interesting subplots that will be teasing out in the coming days. David Brooks, a longtime intimate of Campaign McCain, provides the most interesting Day Two analysis I've seen, basically laying the blame for the scandal on the longtime rift between McCain campaign manager Rick Davis, and his differently gruntled former Karl Rove figure, John Weaver.

At the core of that article that began on the front page are two anonymous sources. These sources, according to the article, say they confronted McCain in 1999 with their concerns that he was risking his career by interacting with Vicki Iseman. […] I have no idea who those sources are. But they are bound to come from the inner circle of the McCain universe. The number of people who could credibly claim to have had a meeting like that with McCain in early 1999 is vanishingly small. I count a small handful of associates with that stature, including Davis and Weaver. There is nobody in that tight circle unaffected by the hostilities that emanate from the rift. […]

Some closer to Weaver theorized that the sources must be former McCain campaign elders from 2000 who worked for rival campaigns in 2008.

I checked that possibility out, and it doesn't hold water. But while calling around to a dozen senior McCain friends and advisers Thursday, what struck me was the enormous tragedy of the rift. […] [It] is like some primal sore. It affected every conversation I had Thursday, as it has infected McCain efforts again and again over the past many years.

The upshot, for the 99% of healthy humans who don't care about inter-campaign machinations? Team McCain might be getting ready to blame the formerly indispensable John Weaver, and depending on how that goes John Weaver might be poised to dig up more skeletons as the campaign season unfolds.

Oh, and there's this parting zinger from Brooks:

Thursday, McCain went all-in. He didn't just say he didn't remember a meeting about Iseman. He said there was no meeting. If it turns out that there is evidence of an affair and a meeting, then his presidential hopes will be over.

UPDATE: As I've mentioned before, McCain's dealings with Vicki Iseman's client Paxson Communications was a mini-scandal eight years ago first raised by the Boston Globe (McCain effectively managed the crisis, plus a related, ensuing one involving still more alleged favors for Ameritech, by producing a massive document-dump that smothered the stories with context). Anyway, the Globe story has always been hard to find online, until today.

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  1. Thank you for “differently gruntled.”

  2. Thank you for “differently gruntled.”

    Heh. I was going to post essentially the same comment.

  3. Thursday, McCain went all-in. He didn’t just say he didn’t remember a meeting about Iseman. He said there was no meeting. If it turns out that there is evidence of an affair and a meeting, then his presidential hopes will be over.

    I wouldn’t be so sure. If McCain can get the GOP Propaganda Mill going full-scale against the New York Times, the red-staters will think the NYT is making up stories for partisan reasons (which they may be).

    McCain did the smart thing by deflecting the allegations to a supposed infidelity rather than an apparent act of corruption.

    Nice move, you speech-muting douchebag.

  4. In last night’s debate the moderator said that McCain has never had an earmark. That sounds incredible to believe imo. Is that true?

  5. I think it’s also interesting how once a story becomes “old” it is therefore supposed to be totally irrelevant. On a thread yesterday fluffy said that it’s a common fact that McCain committed adultery on his first disabled wife. I think this will virtually never come up among, say, the conservative family values folks, and one has to wonder why.

  6. Mr. Nice Guy — From what I understand (through repeated hearsay, more than personal investigation), it *is* true. His reticence on earmarks is remarkable; better than Ron Paul’s.

  7. Personally I don’t care if the guy was banging hookers while his firstborn was being delivered, I think he’s demonstrated character in a lot of other ways…My point is that the fundies tend to measure the overal fitness of candidates by their personal lives, especially anything that brings pleasure like drug use or sex outside of conventional terms, but they also have very short memories…

    What do the libertarians here think about the meat recall? Often here folks argue against government regulation by saying “well a company would NEVER do something harmful to their customers for fear of a negative public reaction that could hurt their bottom line.” That did not seem to stop that company from processing sick cows and selling it to school kids…

  8. Matt-thanks…It is amazing how one could be elected again and again to a state without bringing home any pork via earmarks in this day and age…Perhaps I’m misunderstanding what earmarks entail…

    btw-regarding my mini-threadjack about the meat recall, I will take anyone’s “comments off the air” so to speak so as not to worsen the threadjack. I’m just curious as to what the answers of libertarians here is, not in debating said answers.

  9. I am wondering when McCain will take out a restraining order on Matt.

  10. Wow – no earmarks, ever, is amazing.

  11. You know what? I’ll look into the earmarks claim more closely next week, and get back to you.

  12. Thanks Matt. Careful though, if you find he has never had an earmark, I may just vote for him.

  13. It’s not an earmark in the traditional sense, but isn’t ratcheting up military spending and warhawking his pet project special interest anyway. Just happens that’s a “normal” expansion of government spending so he doesn’t get called on it as earmarking. He writes all sorts of extra-constitutional legislation that actually passes. The guy is intolerable for that alone.

  14. If the NYT was actually trying to hurt McCain, would they have released such a poorly developed story at a stage of the game where it would have little effect on the republican primaries? No. They endorsed him, didn’t they?

  15. What do the libertarians here think about the meat recall? Often here folks argue against government regulation by saying “well a company would NEVER do something harmful to their customers for fear of a negative public reaction that could hurt their bottom line.” That did not seem to stop that company from processing sick cows and selling it to school kids…

    what are the facts of the case? I haven’t read anything about the meat recall and I wouldn’t say a company wouldn’t do this, but there are plenty of definitions of “sick cow” that I may be a bit skeptical of.

  16. They endorsed him, didn’t they?

    Only in the primary.

    For all practical purposes, he is now the candidate in the general election, and you know they’ll endorse the Dem in the general.

    The reason this came out now is that their hand was forced by the TNR story. If they were neutral and/or pro-McCain, they would have just said “look, we’ve dug into some rumors, and can’t come up with anything new that isn’t anonymous innuendo. There’s just not a story here.” But they didn’t; they published a mish-mash of old news and gossip. What does that tell you?

  17. “What do the libertarians here think about the meat recall? Often here folks argue against government regulation by saying “well a company would NEVER do something harmful to their customers for fear of a negative public reaction that could hurt their bottom line.” That did not seem to stop that company from processing sick cows and selling it to school kids…”

    Whoever would say “a company would NEVER do something harmful to their customers for fear of a negative public reaction” would not be very bright, libertarian or otherwise.

  18. Why have a meat recall? Why not just market it as possibly tainted meat and let the consumer decide?
    What is it about the McCain candidacy that reminds people of tainted meat? Hmmmmmm

  19. Lost in translation

    The cows were “downers”, couldn’t stand on
    their own, and were moved along with a
    forklift.

    They’re not supposed to process downers
    because they’re probably sick, and moving
    them with a forklift is “cruelty.”

    The company was pretty clearly out of bounds.

  20. Actually, this post is more ‘sword-of-Damocles’ ominous about McCain’s ‘scandal’ than the original Brooks piece is, which mostly praises McCain with faint damns. Fact is, considering that it’s an NYT column, it’s pretty amazing that it’s so toothless–and makes me wonder if the whole thing wasn’t a fake concocted by the ‘darkly creative’ Weaver just to ensnare the Times and bullet-proof McCain in the coming months. After all, he’s ‘desperate’ to get back in with his old boss, according to Brooks–how better than with an Atwater-style sting like this using a completely safe target? My guess is that however culpable McCain may be on other issues (he was clearly lying when he said he’d never betrayed the trust of the American people–he’s a moral man and obviously feels he has at times), he was flat-out telling the truth about La Affair Iseman.

    Time will tell, of course, but I can usually tell when a guy’s been cheating. And I’m guessing, so can Cindy.

    Incidentally, I noticed a nasty new meme circulating among my liberal friends along with this story–that being tortured as a POW had made McCain incapable of recognizing morality and that he is thus slightly insane. This is a talking point I’ve noticed on several liberal (and far-right) blogs, too–and it constitutes a slander more divisive and pernicious than any racist or sexist slur directed against a Democrat candidate, because it strikes at the very root of all patriotic actions. I had initially felt the Democrats were tearing themselves in half and would emerge from their convention with a McGoverite minority. Now I’m beginning to wonder if their true intent–and that of their rightist evil twins– is not an outright Balkanization of American politics through mass demonization, leaving behind five or six deadlocked identity-group mini-parties to preside over the formation of a New World version of the EU. No wonder patriotism has to go.

  21. The cattle entering a slaughterhouse are required by federal regulation to enter under their own power. The recall is based on video showing a few downer cattle being pushed into the place with heavy equipment. Being unable to walk makes them more susceptible to ecoli contamination from laying in filth. It can also be a symptom of mad cow disease. As far as i’ve seen, no contamination was found, just a higher likelihood. 143 million pounds of meat since 2006 are affected. Most went to schools and a few burger joints.

  22. My apologies for interrupting a fine thread about Mccain

  23. I noticed a nasty new meme circulating among my liberal friends along with this story–that being tortured as a POW had made McCain incapable of recognizing morality and that he is thus slightly insane.

    I hadn’t noticed that, but I hear stuff like that all the time, and you’re right — it’s pernicious, inaccurate, and pathetic. As far as I’ve been able to ascertain, there’s not a single personality trait McCain has now that he didn’t have before Vietnam, except for maybe a mild mellowing and an articulated philosophy (as opposed to an inarticulated philosophy) of National Greatness. Before being tortured McCain was a hard-partying seat-of-the-pants flyboy maverick sonofabitch with an oppressive pedigree, mean temper and taste for booze, strippers and cigarettes. He’s mellowed, but that’s at the root of his personality.

  24. As much as I hate linking to them, here’s a little McCain pork for ya.

  25. What happens if McCain gets rocked by a live-boy/dead-girl scandal (and springtime events reveal that the blessed surge he’s been pimping is a good-money-after-bad clusterfuck) before the GOP’s national convention? Could the party get cold feet and do something to ward off a McCain stain?

    Suppose he withdraws from the race prior to the convention, what happens then?

  26. …McCain was a hard-partying seat-of-the-pants flyboy maverick sonofabitch with an oppressive pedigree, mean temper and taste for booze, strippers and cigarettes.

    Are trying to get me to vote for him? That is a somewhat complimentary description of his youth. Or so it seems to this reprobate, anyway,

  27. I hadn’t noticed that, but I hear stuff like that all the time, and you’re right — it’s pernicious, inaccurate, and pathetic.

    I’ll accept inaccurate, but pernicious and pathetic? I’ve been saying he’s batshit nuts for years. I think he’s borderline certifiable in his refusal to accept reality and his anger management issues. He’s also bought into his own hype, which ties back into his world view and the lack of connection with reality. I can’t say for sure it dates back to his POW days, but that’s always been my guess. Being tortured by the NVA wouldn’t have done happy things to my psyche.

    Matt, you’ve spent more time digging into his background than I have, so if you tell me he was always like that, I’ll grant you the benefit of the doubt and stop attributing it to his captivity. But I’m still going to say he’s nuts because he demonstrates that on a regular basis.

  28. “R C Dean | February 22, 2008, 10:22am | #

    They endorsed him, didn’t they?

    Only in the primary.

    For all practical purposes, he is now the candidate in the general election, and you know they’ll endorse the Dem in the general.

    The reason this came out now is that their hand was forced by the TNR story. If they were neutral and/or pro-McCain, they would have just said “look, we’ve dug into some rumors, and can’t come up with anything new that isn’t anonymous innuendo. There’s just not a story here.” But they didn’t; they published a mish-mash of old news and gossip. What does that tell you?”

    That they didn’t want to get scooped on their own story, so they published it before it was ready?

    Look, what happened here was the following:

    1. Times reporters have good info that a lobbyist was so chummy with McCain that she was banned from the office by McCain’s staff for his own protection.
    2. There are rumors that the two had an affair, but nothing even remotely resembling proof.
    3. The editors at the Times know that a good sex scandal is a better story than just some random crap about somebody being kicked out of an office eight years ago, and sit on it until their reporters can prove the sex angle.
    4. The Times can never nail down the sex angle (either because it wasn’t true, or because McCain hid his tracks well).
    5. The Times is about to be scooped on the story by TNR.
    6. The Times doesn’t want to be scooped on a their own damned story, and they had spent to much time on it to kill it.
    7. So, they publish what they had, which was the apparently good info that the lobbyist was too chummy with McCain and was banned, plus the whisp of the rumor that the two were an item.

    What they should have done was publish the good info and left the sex BS out. However, that was, as Matt Welch said, probably a back page story at best. So they published everything they had and looked stupid for doing so.

  29. “I’m gonna be an actor! | February 22, 2008, 11:57am | #

    What happens if McCain gets rocked by a live-boy/dead-girl scandal (and springtime events reveal that the blessed surge he’s been pimping is a good-money-after-bad clusterfuck) before the GOP’s national convention? Could the party get cold feet and do something to ward off a McCain stain?

    Suppose he withdraws from the race prior to the convention, what happens then?”

    Then we get Huckabee as the nominee?

    If he withdrawals (or dies-he is kind of old) before the convention, the delegates are free to vote for anybody else. They ain’t going to vote for Paul. So, that leaves Huckabee, unless somebody like Romney gets back in.

    Now, the real question is what happens if he dies (or whatever) AFTER the convention but before the election. Probably that merely means Obama wins; it would be too late to get his name off the ballot, although the exact laws vary wildly from state to state.

  30. Matt, you’ve spent more time digging into his background than I have, so if you tell me he was always like that, I’ll grant you the benefit of the doubt and stop attributing it to his captivity.

    He was basically always like that. Later (especially after 1998 or so), he added some new flavors to his personality/ideology/worldview, through the exercise of interpreting his Vietnam experience (and running for president, and burying Barry Goldwater, and discovering National Greatness) … much, in fact, of what you probably don’t like about him was cemented around this era.

    But the biggest single impact of Vietnam on John McCain’s psyche, in my view, was that it temporarily (for a quarter-century, actually) shook him from his faith in America’s default righteousness in waging war. This was very, very traumatizing for him, so alien was that thought to his essentially benevolent-imperialist clan, that he made as the single biggest cause of his political career to “put Vietnam behind us.” Only after doing so — by normalizing relations, wrapping a bow on the POW/MIA controversy, winning a few wars, and applying a 12-step style redemption narrative on his own Vietnam experience — did he regain the essential faith in American righteousness and power.

    But personality-wise, he’s basically the same dude, only with more experience. Friends commented that he was basically just a bit more serious after coming back, but otherwise not a lot different. And people I know who have read all his medical documents tell me there’s no there there (granted, they are sympathetic to the man).

  31. …McCain was a hard-partying seat-of-the-pants flyboy maverick sonofabitch with an oppressive pedigree, mean temper and taste for booze, strippers and cigarettes.

    Other than the oppressive pedigree, booze, cigarettes (and strippers – I preferred actual dancers) that’s me. …er… was me …

    But if I was a Presidential candidate I’d have to grit my teeth hard, and vote for me if the only other choice was a Socialist, or a Clinton …

  32. But personality-wise, he’s basically the same dude, only with more experience. Friends commented that he was basically just a bit more serious after coming back, but otherwise not a lot different. And people I know who have read all his medical documents tell me there’s no there there (granted, they are sympathetic to the man).

    I’m not sure which idea I find more unpleasant. Either way, I’ll accept that he’s always been an ass and move on. I wasn’t voting for him in any event.

  33. Who is the NY Times supporting in this Presidential election? Bet I know!!!!!!!!!

  34. Remember a William Jefferson Clinton who was reportly President of thye USA?? He was such a holy man and never was in any scandals!!!
    I woulkd trust John McCain 10 times faster than either Clintons.

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