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McCain’s Response to Lobbyist Story: Political Smear?

February 22nd, 2008

Read the report:

“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign,” McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said in a statement.

“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, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

“Americans are sick and tired at this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career,” the statement said.

So, according to McCain, the New York Times is out to politically assassinate him with a smear campaign, playing gutter politics? That’s a bit of a stretch. But maybe that’s the only thing McCain can say right now. Denying the affair is easy: unless there’s a confession or some visual record, there’s slim to no chance that an affair will be proved. But the really damning stuff would be the simple association with a lobbyist, and the public record that McCain indeed intervened on her behalf.

Notice that McCain does not address that point. They just issue a general denial, claiming that the story shows nothing to suggest that he violated his principles. Really? Intervening on behalf of a lobbyist in such a brazen act of engendering political patronage that he was publicly rebuked by the commission he tried to sway in her favor:

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.

For a man who sells himself as the champion of campaign finance reform and a bane to lobbyist, this hard evidence certainly does sound like it’s a betrayal of some principle or another.

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