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Saturday, March 11, 2006

The Many Faces of John McCain

Jamison Foser has a very good piece up at Media Matters right now about how the press fawns over John McCain, always looking for the favorable angle even as they let him skate on stuff for which they'd throw a Democrat on the barbecue:
Take, for example, the article Reuters ran about a forthcoming Vanity Fair article in which former Republican lobbyist and admitted felon Jack Abramoff disclosed that he "worked closely with many top Republicans, despite their claims to the contrary." The Vanity Fair article includes this passage:
"Mr. Abramoff flatters himself," Mark Salter, McCain's administrative assistant, tells [Vanity Fair contributing editor David] Margolick. "Senator McCain was unaware of his existence until he read initial press accounts of Abramoff's abuses, and had never laid eyes on him until he appeared before the committee."

Abramoff says, "As best I can remember, when I met with him, he didn't have his eyes shut. I'm surprised that Senator McCain has joined the chorus of amnesiacs."
The Reuters article about the Vanity Fair piece began: "Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff said in the latest issue of Vanity Fair magazine that he worked closely with many top Republicans, despite their claims to the contrary."

Yet Reuters didn't mention John McCain at all, focusing instead on comparatively insignificant Republicans like Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) and Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman. The Vanity Fair passage about McCain perfectly fit the premise of the Reuters article -- it shows Abramoff contradicting McCain's claim, through a spokesman, that he had never met Abramoff. If Abramoff is telling the truth, we've learned two things: McCain has ties to one of the most corrupt lobbyists ever to walk the earth, and he's lying about it. McCain is among the most famous Republicans in America, and a leading contender for the party's 2008 presidential nomination.

Yet Reuters omitted any mention of him from its article. Does anyone believe, even for a moment, that any other political figure of McCain's stature -- say, Hillary Clinton or John Kerry -- would have been the recipient of this kind of favorable treatment?
McCain would've signed that South Dakota abortion bill too, despite his carefully parsed caveat about taking "appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included." But that's not what people are hearing from the Tweety's of the world who shut their ears to anything that might tie McCain to an extremely unpopular piece of legislation.

If John McCain is going to be beaten in 2008, cracking open the McCain myth has to start now. One of the ways we built up this blog was to take an issue people were really interested in, Traitorgate, and really dig into it such that we became one of the go-to places for Plame info. If I were going to pick an issue today that could virtually guarantee someone all the links they could eat -- and I don't mean just from us, I mean from all over the blogosphere -- it would be following McCain, digging into his history and covering what he does in depth on a day-to-day basis. Every blog can't cover every issue every day so when something arises you just naturally look to the person who makes it their business to be informed on that particular topic. McCain is already running for 2008, and as of yet there is no significant blog presence mobilizing against him.

Anyone who was willing to put the time in and do it well would have themselves a very large audience in a relatively short period of time, IMHO.

Update: As Atrios notes, McCain's stunt at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was extremely stupid. He regularly gets away with mistakes like this because nobody really holds him to account. There is plenty of fertile ground for McCain posts; he is hardly the boyscout he pretends to be.