Friday, February 22, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Having watched their compatriots at the NYT publish an ethically challenged hit piece on John McCain, the Washinton Post decides they too want in on the action.


The Washington Post follows up the NTY story yesterday, doing only a slightly more subtle hit piece. The Washington Post leads with the story "McCain Disputed On 1999 Meeting":

Broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson yesterday contradicted statements from Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign that the senator did not meet with Paxson or his lobbyist before sending two controversial letters to the Federal Communications Commission on Paxson's behalf.

Paxson said he talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before the Arizona Republican wrote the letters in 1999 to the FCC urging a rapid decision on Paxson's quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television station.

Paxson also recalled that his lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, likely attended the meeting in McCain's office and that Iseman helped arrange the meeting. "Was Vicki there? Probably," Paxson said in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday. "The woman was a professional. She was good. She could get us meetings."

The recollection of the now-retired Paxson conflicted with the account provided by the McCain campaign about the two letters at the center of a controversy about the senator's ties to Iseman, a partner at the lobbying firm of Alcalde & Fay.

The McCain campaign said Thursday that the senator had not met with Paxson or Iseman on the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding," the campaign said in a statement.

But Paxson said yesterday, "I remember going there to meet with him." He recalled that he told McCain: "You're head of the Commerce Committee. The FCC is not doing its job. I would love for you to write a letter."

McCain attorney Robert S. Bennett played down the contradiction between the campaign's written answer and Paxson's recollection.

. . . "We understood that he [McCain] did not speak directly with him [Paxson]. Now it appears he did speak to him. What is the difference?" Bennett said. "McCain has never denied that Paxson asked for assistance from his office. It doesn't seem relevant whether the request got to him through Paxson or the staff. His letters to the FCC concerning the matter urged the commission to make up its mind. He did not ask the FCC to approve or deny the application. It's not that big a deal."

Read the entire article. There is more smoke. But let me ask you. Is there anything wrong with asking for an elected official to intercede to force a regulatory agency to get off their ass and do their job? The FCC was required to make a decision. The FCC was close to a year late and a business deal was about to fall through because of it. How is anything that McCain did ethically challenged?

This argument smacks of a no-war-for-oil mindset. To do anything for a lobbyist is verbotten, even if what the lobbyist wants happens to be good for the country. Nonetheless, the Washington Post tells us that this was very bad form by McCain. They drive home the point that with quotations from Gloria Tristani:

Another commissioner, Gloria Tristani, who now practices law in Washington, said McCain's interference was offensive. She noted that, in the Paxson matter, the commission was serving as a quasi-judicial body.

"It was just not proper," Tristani said. "It is like going to a court and saying, 'Tell us before it is final how you voted.' "

McCain's request for a vote by a certain date also rankled Tristani. "It was highly contentious and could impinge on the process," she said. "It was very controversial."

What horse manure. Perhaps it would be nice if the Washington Post told us a bit more about Ms. Tristani. Her on-line bio begins with the words "a life-long Democrat." She was also ran for the Senate as a Democrat. Think that might have anything to do with evaluating her position?

This hitpiece isin't as bad as the New York Time's monstrosity, but it is a hit piece all the same. Let me explain this for those journalists who seem to have lost their moral and ethical compass.

If any of our elected leaders or Presidential candidates are violating a law, tell me. That would be a tremendous service. If John McCain or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is carrying on an adulterous affair and you have proof, I want to know it. I would prefer no more sex scandals in the oval office, straight, gay or lesbian. If John McCain, Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton is accepting campaign contributions from special interests and then acting inappropriately on behalf of that interest, ferreting that out is good journalism. And if McCain, Obama or Clinton are directing earmarks to campaign contributors, that is especially important. On the other hand, if you are going to write on any those topics without proof, using innuendo and speculation, or play gotcha' journalism on wholly ancillary facts, you have completely lost your moral and ethical compass.

Now, if McCain lied about the nature of the support he provided to Mr. Paxson, that would be an important story. If McCain had written to the FCC urging approval of Mr. Paxson's request, that would be legitimate front page news. But the bottom line is that McCain did not lie about that. To put this in perspective, of the 100 Senators in Congress, I doubt if you could find a one of them that has not written letters to regulatory agencies or other branches of government on behalf of people and businesses.

The fact that two people's memories of ancillary events a decade old differ on the margins is expected. To play this up as a "contradiction" to suggest McCain is being less than honest is pretty outrageous, actually. What this seems is an attempt by the Washington Post to do no more than keep the dust storm alive in the hopes some will turn to mud and stick to Senator McCain before he can start eating Barack Obama alive on such things as Obama's loyalty to lobbyists and earmarks.

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