Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What Alterman and Zornick Said

Thanks to The Sideshow, I ran across this from Alterman and Zornick, and thought it ought to be passed on. So here is an excellent rundown of McCain flipflops. The whole post is worth a read, but on the long side, so I excerpt here from "Loving John McCain" at The Nation.

Flip-Flop Free Pass

It is a challenge to find an issue on which McCain has stood his ground in the face of opposition from his party's extremist establishment. "How about abortion?" you ask. Well, speaking to the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle in August 1999, McCain explained, "Certainly in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade, which would then force X number of women in America" to be subject to "illegal and dangerous operations." And McCain today? "I do not support Roe v. Wade--it should be overturned." McCain says he favors a rape and incest exception for abortion prohibitions, but his party's platform refuses to allow for any such exceptions. If the candidate plans on fighting to get this restrictive party plank changed, however, he has kept that information secret so far. What's more, McCain has voted for every one of Bush's judicial appointments, all of whom oppose a woman's right to choose. What about gay marriage? In 2006 McCain was one of only seven Republican senators to vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment; two years later he told Chris Matthews, "I think gay marriages should be allowed" when states decide to legalize gay unions. Today McCain not only opposes gay marriage but favors denying benefits to unmarried couples, period.

McCain's addiction to politically convenient flip-floppery is even evident regarding the issue with which his "maverick" reputation is most closely associated--political reform. Recall that much of McCain's reputation as a reformer derives from the partnership he forged with Democratic Senator Russ Feingold to try to reform the nation's campaign finance laws. He did so, he said at the time, out of a sense of remorse over his involvement with the "Keating Five," when he helped himself to free flights on Charles Keating's jets and asked regulators to go easy on the corrupt financier during a period when his wife happened to be Keating's investment partner. McCain received an Ethics Committee reprimand, and he has consistently pointed to his regret over his role in the scandal as his primary motivation for his commitment to the issue, over the objection of many in his party.

That's the theory anyway. And it is one so widely accepted by McCain's fans in the mainstream media that many do not feel an obligation to examine McCain's behavior anymore to determine whether he bothers adhering to the laws he wrote. Time managing editor Richard Stengel, for instance, explains that "McCain is so pure on this issue, ever since the Keating Five when he saw the light.... McCain has toed the line about lobbyists, about campaign fundraising."

In fact, McCain's devotion to remaining within his much-proclaimed ethical guidelines is a far murkier matter. It's not just his close friendship and professional relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, revealed by the New York Times, that causes so many titters--it's that McCain flew on the private jet of Iseman's client Lowell Paxson and repeatedly carried out legislative favors on his behalf. Paxson wasn't the only client of Iseman's who appeared to get special attention from McCain; the Times documented other instances where legislation introduced by McCain dovetailed with key priorities of other companies, in the telecommunications and cruise ship industries, represented by Iseman's firm--all of which contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his presidential campaign.

No less significant, candidate McCain has taken advantage of loopholes in the laws he has written and lax enforcement by an understaffed Federal Election Commission (FEC) to subvert the intended purposes of the laws. The old John McCain championed legislation that would require presidential candidates to pay the actual cost of flying on corporate jets and to pay charter rates when using such jets rather than cheaper first-class fares. The purpose was to try to reduce the power of jet-wielding lobbyists and enforce a sense of fairness. But how did McCain behave when the issue arose in his campaign? A New York Times investigation recently revealed that he availed himself of a jet owned by a company headed by his wife. He was able to do this without technically breaking the law only because the law makes a specific exception for planes owned by a candidate or his family (or by a privately held company they control). The FEC has sought to close this loophole, but its new rules have been prevented from going into effect, as the White House has refused--until recently--to appoint a sufficient number of commissioners to allow their approval. So while McCain may be technically within the letter of the outdated law, he is purposely undermining its spirit. What's more, these financial shenanigans are hardly consistent with the response he gave when asked by a reporter whether he planned to rely on his wife's wealth to help out with the campaign. "I have never thought about it," he told the Arizona Republic. "I would never do such a thing."

Such actions are of a piece with a campaign that is dominated by lobbyists to a degree unmatched by any other candidate for President this year. McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles Black Jr., was until recently chair of one of Washington's most powerful private lobbies, BKSH and Associates, whose clients include AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and US Airways--not to mention a string of dictators with shady human rights records, from Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire to Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. In addition, his top economic adviser, former Senator Phil Gramm--who wrote the McCain campaign's banking policy--was, until April 18, registered as a lobbyist for UBS, the international banking giant deeply involved in the subprime housing market crisis. And on down the line in the McCain campaign it goes, with almost all the top positions occupied by the very people whose influence he claims to want to curb. And yet, despite a series of forced resignations over embarrassing conflicts of interest, the media narrative continues untouched by truth. Writing in the Washington Post in May, longtime editor David Ignatius praised McCain because he "has actually fought the kind of bipartisan battles that Obama talks about--from campaign finance to climate change to rules against torture--and he has the political scars to prove it."

In early June, Times reporter Charlie Savage revealed another crucial McCain flip-flop: as recently as January, McCain said he opposed George W. Bush's unconstitutional wiretaps on American citizens, explaining, "I don't think the President has the right to disobey any law." But as with so many of McCain's more moderate positions, that was then. Today, according to his top adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain has decided that "neither the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001."

The intransigency the press persistently ignores is going over the top, more every day. I await the meltdown, sure to happen in Obama/McCain debates.

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Anonymous ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...



Little Richie Cohen, Funnyman/Liberal (just ask him), says so.

And who would know character better?

6:31 PM  
Blogger Neil Benson said...

McCain is like a fish that's neither in or out of the water. He's trying to maintain the conservative base while reaching out to the middle. That leaves him in the mud gasping for air. His flip-flopping concerns me less then is possible mental deterioration. The 72 and suffered five years or more of torture in the prison camp that likely sped up the onset of the aging process.

11:46 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Everyone does actually have character. In McSame's case it's bad character, leading to covering up for it a.k.a. Republican lying.

Cheney also has mental deterioration from the heart disease as I understand. Many similarities there.

4:42 AM  

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