Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, in his offices and aboard a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s clients, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.
It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.
But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.
And on it goes. No idea where this might lead, but if there's even a hint of impropriety against McCain, this could blow the primary season wide open and give Mike Huckabee a new lease on life. They just mentioned on Lou Dobbs' "newcast" that McCain and Co. begged the Times not to publish the story, which of course it will be in tomorrow's edition and just about any other publication that subscribes to the NYT newswire.
If they're worried about this, then it may very well be McCain's "hero" status is terminated. And that would mean another "key" turned in favour of the Democrats. Let's not forget he was one of the Keating Five -- the gang of senators that convinced regulators to keep their hands off the "moral" -- and I use the term sarcastically -- Charles Keating and his Lincoln Savings and Loan, which later collapsed in one of the biggest bank frauds in history (McCain was reprimanded by his fellow Senators for bad judgment).
McCain vowed not to take a direct flight from Phoenix to Washington on commercial flights (a route he got approved) yet had no issue flying on corporate jets to and from work. He fought for campaign finance reform but he is leaching off lobbyists this year. And let's face it, who wouldn't be attracted to a Vietnam vet? Especially a married one?
God bless -- and help -- America. If this what passes for normal, DC really needs a shakeout.
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