This week “straight talking” John McCain was exposed as the liar he is and true to form, the result was a circling of the right-wing wagons to support him. It isn’t the issue of whether he snuggled up with his lobbyist gal pal that is important but rather his poor judgment when it comes to lobbyists.
The Keating scandal first suggested how blind McCain is to paid influence peddlers but we were told that he had been born again as a reformer who had learned his lesson. And then he got cozy with Vicki Iseman and that led to carrying the torch for Paxson Communications.
At Paxson’s urging, McCain wrote two letters in 1999 to the FCC on behalf of Paxson Communications urging it to move on a matter of importance to Paxson. Newsweek this week says
McCain’s subsequent letters to the FCC—coming around the same time that Paxson’s firm was flying the senator to campaign events aboard its corporate jet and contributing $20,000 to his campaign—first surfaced as an issue during his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid. William Kennard, the FCC chair at the time, described the sharply worded letters from McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, as “highly unusual.”
In response to this week’s Times article, McCain denied speaking with Paxson directly regarding the letters. In a statement, the campaign said:
“Senator McCain’s staff recalls meeting with representatives of Paxson, and staff was asked to contact the FCC on behalf of Senator McCain,” Begemen continued. “The staff relayed to Senator McCain the message from Paxson’s representatives. But we have checked the records of the Senator’s 1999 schedule and it does not appear there were any meetings between Senator McCain and Paxson or any representative of Paxson regarding the issue.”
Yet in a 2002 deposition in a lawsuit challenging the McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws, Sen. McCain said that he had been personally contacted by Mr. Paxson who requested that he write the letters to the FCC. McCain’s campaign denies that there is any contradiction between McCain’s sworn testimony and his current denial. Yet today it was confirmed by Bud Paxson himself that he met with McCain about the letters to the FCC.
McCain himself has admitted that writing the letters could reasonably raise the appearance of corruption, echoing his mea culpa over the Keating scandal lapses in judgment. The current misstep over whether he met with Paxson exposes McCain’s blind spot all over again, and this time he is caught in a direct lie.
That to me is troubling with regard to a candidate running on the “straight talk” slogan, but what is even more disturbing is that it is very clear Sen. McCain has not learned much about dealing with lobbyists. His campaign relies heavily on staffers who are lobbyists working without pay. McCain issues the all too familiar “It doesn’t affect my decisions” denial that all corrupt politicians utter, but that is a thin reed to rely upon when the candidate is caught bending the truth about something so easily checked.
Why is it that only the New York Times was brave enough to dig behind the Teflon “good guy” image? Why is it that the press is giving Sen. McCain a free pass when it comes to this campaign?
A phrase from the Nixon era keeps coming back to me. “Would you buy a used car from this man?” Not me.