Arrogance Express

by digby

Back in the 2000 campaign when St John the Flyboy was every journalist's favorite pol, a story emerged about him major sending letters on behalf of a contributor, Paxson Communications, to the FCC.

When The Boston Globe disclosed the Paxson intervention a few weeks after the Claremont summit, McCain handled the disclosure with aplomb, even chutzpah. The chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee argued that he had done nothing wrong and that the suspicion falling on him only reinforced his argument for campaign finance reform.

"We're all tainted," McCain said. "We're all under suspicion as long as Washington is awash in special interest money."

The fanboys in the press loooved that answer. Senator Straight-Talk was just telling like it was, more in sorrow than in anger, showing that he too was subject to the same suspicion that other politicians were. But he, being the driver of the straight-talk express, was naturally above reproach.

Well, apparently there was more to the story. It turns out that McCain had a very cozy relationship with Paxson's lobbyist, to the extent that some of his staff were worried that he was having an affair with her. (They both deny it, and I could not care less if it's true.) But whatever it was, they were very close and McCain was apparently doing official favors for her.

The NY Times reports:

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, in his offices and aboard 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 clients, 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.

Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to fly directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the impression of self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a decade ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of business executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman’s client. (Last year he voted to end the practice.)

It goes on to outline just what a hypocrite McCain has been on this subject.

I don't know if McCain is crooked. But you have to wonder, after his close call with the Keating Five and public association with campaign finance reform, how anyone could be so arrogant as to think he could get away with this stuff if he actually became the Republican nominee? After all we've seen of pages and blue dresses and wide stances, it's nearly impossible to believe that candidates can think they'll get away with hiding anything like this in this environment.

But apparently, he did. He has bought so fully into his media love that he seems to have believed that he wouldn't be held to the same standards as other politicians. I guess he thought that nobody could ever believe he'd do anything dishonest. But now that another woman has been injected into this (by GOP operatives, I might add), his whole facade is in danger of crumbling. The press might have been willing to overlook the corruption angle, but the sex angle is just impossible for them to resist.

By the way, as this alleged relationship was happening (or shortly before) John McCain voted to impeach Clinton on both counts. One of those counts had to do with concealing his plan to help Monica Lewinsky land a job.


This story from December in the Washington Post, gave a preview of this story. It's interesting that McCain hired Robert bennett to represent him in this matter. Doesn't that seem like a bit much?

FWIW, the rumor is that another outlet was running a big story on this tomorrow and that's why the Times finally jumped in.