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06-12-08 Consortiumnews-McCain Makes Stuff Up by Robert Parr

06-12-08 Consortiumnews-McCain Makes Stuff Up by Robert Parr

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Published by Mark Welkie

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Published by: Mark Welkie on Mar 13, 2011
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53437231.docPage 1 of 3
June 12, 2008
McCain Makes Stuff Up
By Robert ParryFor years now, the U.S. political press corps has traveled with John McCain on his“Straight Talk Express,” buying into his image as a paragon of truth-telling. But thereal truth is that McCain routinely makes stuff up, as he did on June 11 in lying aboutBarack Obama’s “bitter” comment.During a political talk in Philadelphia, McCain claimed that Obama had described“bitter” small-town voters as clinging to religion or “the Constitution” – when thesecond item in Obama’s comment actually was “guns.”But the Arizona senator didn’t stop with a simple word substitution. He added that hewill tell these voters that “they have trust and support the Constitution of the UnitedStates because they have optimism and hope. … That’s what America’s all about.”In other words, McCain didn’t just make a slip of the tongue. He willfully accusedObama of disparaging the U.S. Constitution, a very serious point that, if true, mightcause millions of Americans to reject Obama’s candidacy.Still, when some of the U.S. broadcast networks – including NBC evening news –played the clip of McCain lashing out at Obama’s purported dissing of theConstitution, they didn’t correct McCain's falsehood.That fits with a long-standing pattern of the political press corps giving McCain abreak when he makes statements at variance with the truth. Even in the raremoments when he is caught in an inaccuracy – such as accusing Shiite-ruled Iran of training Sunni extremists in al-Qaeda – the falsehood is minimized as anunintentional gaffe.However, McCain actually seems to be following a trail blazed by George W. Bush,saying what’s useful at the time even if it’s not true and then counting on the U.S.press corps to timidly look the other way.Through all his misstatements, McCain’s “straight-talk” reputation survives.
Sweeping Denials
In another instructive case, McCain got away with sweeping denials in his reaction toaNew York Times articleon Feb. 21. The story led with unsubstantiated suspicionsamong some McCain staffers that their boss had gotten too cozy with female lobbyistVicky Iseman, but McCain went beyond simply denying any sexual improprieties.He put out a statement declaring that in his quarter-century congressional career, he“has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests orlobbyists.” But that simply isn’t true.As the Times story already had recalled, McCain helped one of his early financialbackers, wheeler-dealer Charles Keating, frustrate oversight from federal bankingregulators who were examining Keating’s Lincoln Savings and Loan Association.At Keating's urging, McCain wrote letters, introduced bills and pushed a Keatingassociate for a job on a banking regulatory board. In 1987, McCain joined several
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other senators in two private meetings with federal banking regulators on Keating’sbehalf.Two years later, Lincoln collapsed, costing the U.S. taxpayers $3.4 billion. Keatingeventually went to prison and three other senators from the so-called Keating Fivesaw their political careers ruined.McCain drew a Senate reprimand for his involvement and later lamented his faultyjudgment. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” hewrote in his 2002 memoir,
Worth the Fighting For 
.But some people close to the case thought McCain got off too easy.Not only was McCain taking donations from Keating and his business circle, gettingfree rides on Keating’s corporate jet and enjoying joint vacations in the Bahamas –McCain’s second wife, the beer fortune heiress Cindy Hensley, had invested withKeating in an Arizona shopping mall.In the years that followed, however, McCain not only got out from under the shadowof the Keating Five scandal but found a silver lining in the cloud, transforming thecase into a lessons-learned chapter of his personal narrative.McCain, as born-again reformer, soon was winning over the Washington press corpswith his sponsorship of ethics legislation, like the McCain-Feingold bill limiting “softmoney” contributions to the political parties.However, there was still that other side of John McCain as he wielded enormouspower from his position as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, whichhelped him solicit campaign donations from corporations doing business before thepanel.The Times story reported that McCain did favors on behalf of Iseman’s lobbyingclients, including two letters that McCain wrote in 1999 to the FederalCommunications Commission demanding that it act on a long-delayed request byIseman’s client, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to buy a Pittsburgh televisionstation.Rather than simply acknowledge this fact, McCain’s campaign issued anothersweeping denial of impropriety, calling those letters routine correspondence thatwere handled by staff without McCain meeting either with Paxson or anyone fromIseman’s firm, Alcalde & Fay."No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain tosend a letter to the FCC," his campaign said.
McCain’s Own Words
But that also turned out not to be true.Newsweek’s investigative reporter Michael Isikoff dug up a sworn deposition fromSept. 25, 2002, in which McCain himself declared that “I was contacted by Mr. Paxsonon this issue. … He wanted their [the FCC’s] approval very bad for purposes of hisbusiness. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint.”Though McCain claimed not to recall whether he had spoken with Paxson’s lobbyist[presumably a reference to Iseman], he added, “I’m sure I spoke to [Paxson],”according to the deposition. [SeeNewsweek’s Web posting, Feb. 22, 2008]McCain’s letters to the FCC, which Chairman William Kennard criticized as “highlyunusual,” came in the same period when Paxson’s company was ferrying McCain topolitical events aboard its corporate jet and donating $20,000 to his campaign.

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