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Sunday, February 24, 2008

The New York Times' effect on McCain

“We can try to understand the New York Times’ effect on man,” the Bee Gees sang around three decades ago in their smash hit Stayin’ Alive. Since the New York Times’ latest tabloid journalistic, thinly-sourced, slime job/hit piece, “Stayin’ Alive,” politically speaking, is what John McCain is trying to do. Although, since the story broke, the “effect” for McCain has not be so bad after all, and could even turn out to be quite a blessing-in-disguise for him.

In fact, since the story was published, the NY Times has come under more scrutiny than McCain has. How ironic, but not surprising, is the fact that the article appeared at all in the NY Times is more of a story than the story itself. It is not surprising because the story is full of innuendo and circumstantial evidence. It practically begs readers to draw their own negative conclusions regarding the almost certain Republican presidential nominee, John McCain. This after the NY Times endorsed McCain in late January.

The story implies an affair, around a decade ago, with a female lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. I use “implies” rather loosely, because there are no named, on-the-record sources and all that the unnamed sources reveal is that certain people around McCain, suspecting something romantic was going on, tried to limit Iseman’s access to the Senator.

All of this is, “according to two former McCain associates,” whom the article later admits, “had become disillusioned with the senator.” Were they disillusioned to the point that they perhaps wanted to hurt the Senator politically? Did their disillusionment come about as a result of being “former” associates (Were they fired?)?

Both Iseman and McCain have directly denied any affair.

The story first surfaced around two months ago, on December 20 in The Drudge Report under the headline: MEDIA FIREWORKS: MCCAIN PLEADS WITH NY TIMES TO SPIKE STORY. Drudge reported that, “Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz has been waging a ferocious behind the scenes battle with the NEW YORK TIMES…and has hired DC power lawyer Bob Bennett to mount a bold defense against charges of giving special treatment to a lobbyist!”

Drudge continued with, “The paper's Jim Rutenberg has been leading the investigation and is described as beyond frustrated with McCain's aggressive and angry efforts to stop any and all publication. The drama involves a woman lobbyist who may have helped to write key telecom legislation. The woman in question has retained counsel and strongly denies receiving any special treatment from McCain.” There was no mention of an affair in this report.

Drudge also reported that, “McCain has personally pleaded with NY TIMES editor Bill Keller not to publish the high-impact report.” Keller, on the Times website, the Friday after the story ran, said, “I was surprised by how lopsided the opinion was against our decision [to publish] with readers who described themselves as independents and Democrats joining Republicans in defending Mr. McCain from what they saw as a cheap shot.”

Regarding it as more than a “cheap shot,” The Weekly Standard reported that, “The editors of U.S. News & World Report and Time magazine both said publicly that they would not have published the article. It was not, to borrow a phrase, fit to print. The piece was so underwhelming that many believe the paper must have more evidence that, for whatever reason, it decided not to publish.”

However, just as one person’s manure is another person’s fertilizer, McCain is looking to cash in on the Times ineptitude. A campaign aide stated two days after the story ran, that a campaign fund-raising letter ripping the story and pleading with contributors to fight back “was the most successful to date.”

With this latest sorry effort, all the Times has done, besides galvanize conservatives against them, is reinforce the belief of many that The Gray Lady is going a bit senile.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason.
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World
tthomas@trevorgrantthomas.com

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Case for John McCain

Just how conservative is John McCain? It has been particularly interesting to watch, listen, and read about this issue. With the withdrawal of Mitt Romney, it also will be interesting to watch as McCain tries to sell himself to those skeptical of his conservatism. Many conservatives have contended that he is a liberal masquerading as one of their own. Some conservatives have gone so far as to say that there is little difference between John McCain and Hillary Clinton, and the country would be served equally well with either one occupying the White House. This all makes for high drama, and high ratings, but I don’t buy it. I do not see McCain as a liberal, and I don’t think it was reasonable to conclude that he was more liberal (in general) than his chief rival, Mitt Romney.

I’m not alone in this assessment either. National Review, a leading conservative journal (and an endorser of Romney), recently noted that, “McCain has a more consistent conservative record than Giuliani or Romney…This is an abiding strength of his candidacy.” Bill Bennett, in a recent article concluded that, “There is a great deal of difference between Senators McCain and Clinton (and Obama).”

The McCain haters, at least those with an audience, pinned their hopes on Romney. It is beyond me how a governor from “The People’s Republic of Massachusetts” became the darling of many diehard conservatives. His record as Governor is as liberal as one would imagine.

For example, in 2002 Romney responded to the National Abortion Rights Action League’s candidate survey with, “I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose…Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs…” Interestingly, he refused to respond to the candidate questionnaire sent to him by Massachusetts Citizens for Life. His platform during the 2002 governor’s race said that he “would protect the current pro-choice status quo in Massachusetts.”

Twice Romney sought and received the endorsement of the homosexual group, Log Cabin Republican Club. During his 2002 gubernatorial campaign, his organization distributed bright pink flyers during Boston’s annual Gay Pride events, which said, “Mitt and Kerry [his running mate] wish you a great Pride weekend! All citizens deserve equal rights regardless of their sexual preference.”

Now Romney ran for President as a pro-life, pro family conservative. I’m not saying he wasn’t sincere in his policy reversals, but his conversion at least appeared politically convenient. However, I would have enthusiastically supported him over Clinton or Obama.

Some claim that if McCain gets elected, he will make a political “left turn.” Why were those supporting Romney so sure that he wouldn't pull the same thing? As has been widely reported, McCain’s lifetime American Conservative Union rating is 83. This puts him right behind Fred Thompson’s 86, who was the favorite of most conservatives early on. From 2003 to 2006 McCain averaged a 79% rating from National Right to Life and during that same period he averaged a 0% rating from the pro abortion groups Planned Parenthood and NARAL. From 2003 to 2006 McCain averaged a 6.5 % from the liberal National Organization for Women, and a 100% from the conservative Concerned Women for America. (Interest group ratings for many politicians can be found at www.vote-smart.org)

The Family Research Council, founded by James Dobson (who refuses to personally support McCain’s candidacy), as recently as 2003 rated McCain 100%. Interestingly the founder of the Christian Coalition, Pat Robertson, found it acceptable last November to endorse the thrice married, pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, pro-gun control Rudy Giuliani (who also was once a darling of other very vocal “conservatives”).

President Bush is no perfect conservative either (whatever that is). However, he has been steadfast as Commander In Chief, has given the country tax cuts, has overseen significant economic growth, and perhaps most importantly, appointed the strict constructionists Roberts and Alito to the Supreme Court.

Whatever a conservative’s concerns with John McCain, and there are legitimate ones, the dual roles of Commander In Chief, and appointer of Federal Judges, should be enough to cause any reasonable conservative to give him some benefit of the doubt.

Concerning McCain as Commander In Chief, even some of his most outspoken critics such as conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, admit that, “The world’s bad guys would never for a moment think he would blink in any showdown, or hesitate to strike back at any enemy with the audacity to try again to cripple the U.S. through terror.” Contrast that with Barak Obama, who has about the same foreign policy experience as I do, or with Hillary Clinton who said recently that her first act as President would be to begin the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days.

On the Federal Judiciary, the Wall Street Journal recently said, “there is no reason to believe that Mr. McCain will not make excellent appointments to the court. On judicial nominations, he has voted soundly in the past from Robert Bork in 1987 to Samuel Alito in 2006.”

Given all of this, I will eagerly vote for John McCain in November over the likes of Clinton or Obama. If you call yourself a conservative, I hope you will do the same.

Copyright 2008, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World