Thursday, February 21, 2008


What to make of today's New York Times story raising suspicions that Republican Presidential candidate John McCain may have been cozying up too close with lobbyist Vicki Iseman.

Well, my first response is to state, unequivocally, I couldn't care less. Even if it's true, fine. If it's false, just fine with me. I do not care.

Of course, more troublesome than a possible romance, denied by both McCain and Iseman, is the more lurid and more likely possibility of influence peddling. About this matter I do care ... especially as it involves a politician who has wrapped himself in a mantle of integrity and independence.

My second response is to wonder why the NYT should consider this story newsworthy, apart from (1) its apparent sources are McCain's own advisers (whuh?) and (2) its echoey relevance to the Bill Clinton melodrama 10 years ago.

On the first count, that McCain's own advisers should delve into innuendo that might hurt their man in the eyes of righteous Americans everywhere is mystifying enough to deserve a story.

What could their motive be?

But, surely, there must be an ugly underbelly to this story, after all the Bushes (George H.W., George W., and Jeb) have jumped on the McCain-for-President bandwagon, and, more ominously, Karl Rove is now looking for a place on the wagon to park his own ample butt. And these are not men known for being, let us say, undevious.

And, moreover, last month the New York Times endorsed McCain among the Republican contenders ... and Hillary Clinton among the Democratic. It seems unlikely then that the Times is motivated by an anti-McCain bias, unless, of course, a scandal could benefit Clinton, their true darling, perhaps. But could it? A scandal at this level could do nothing except open old wounds for the Clintons....

Though, I suppose, there is a possibility, a remote one, that a scandal like this (if tinted in the illicit colors of adultery) could raise attention, even some sympathy for McCain and, by analogy, for Clinton. At the moment, McCain doesn't need the bump--not this type of bump, anyway--but Clinton could possibly find a way to capitalize on the situation--perhaps by nobly showering McCain and his family with compassion, in this dark hour, while subtly reminding the world that she, too, has known sorrow and suffering at the hands of unjust media.

Hard to read. Really really hard.

My third response is this: Could it be Huckabee? Not necessarily the amiable yet devout, purpose-driven creationist himself, whose name so warmly evokes Mark Twain and a chain of family restaurants. But his supporters?


Is the religious right capable of falsely smearing a former military hero like McCain in order to give a boost to their boy Mike?

Short answer: You bet.

And I'd be surprised if the religious right has NOT been cooking up something right along this line ... even if not this particular scandal.

So if the simplest explanation is the best (which it so seldom is, by the way), then I would say supporters of Huckabee are lurking in the shadows of this new revelation.

But with Rove and the Bushes circling around in McCain waters these days, it's hard for me not to imagine that somehow this is a maneuver to help McCain (if indeed he is their man), though the "how" may be as elaborate and slow to unwind as the marketing campaign for Cloverfield.

Careful readers may notice that I have not considered the possibility that the story is, true or not, simply a thing of chance and coincidence--that the Times is pursuing only solid, straightforward reportage; that McCain's advisers have spoken up in the spirit of sincere, if perhaps mistaken, civic responsibility; that Rove and/or the religious right are in no way involved in an elaborate conspiracy to (once again) spoil the democratic processes of free election.

My friends could say I watch The Wire too much, but my doubts about the transparency of American power and the American "way of life" are much older than The Wire.

Can the system really be as corrupt as I automatically suspect it is? Can media and/or political power brokers really be as contemptuous of the truth and history as my knee-jerk suspicions hint that they are? Are we now alive in a place and a time that put the Medicis' Florence to shame?

Short answer: You bet.

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