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Cranking Up the Slime Machine
McCain NewsLadder

by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Sat., Oct 11, 2008
Filed under: NewsLadderPresidential campaign 2008John McCain

Just days before the second face-to-face, nationally televised meeting of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain came a torrent of accusations and innuendo against Obama, the Democrat, by McCain, the Republican, and his GOP surrogates — especially his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. By week’s end, Palin would be standing with egg on her face, chided by the Alaska state legislature for abuse of power in violation of the state Ethics Act., and revealed to have relationships with a couple of anti-government (as in anti-United States Government) types in her home state.

Before the week officially began, accusations against Obama that had months earlier failed to make a splash were urgently regurgitated by McCain and Palin — most especially an inference that Obama’s acquaintance with a Chicago figure who was active in the Weather Underground in the 1960s proves a disregard for his own country by the Democratic candidate.

As the McCain campaign tried to link Obama to former Weatherman William Ayers, respectable news organizations, Truthdig reports, questioned the claims as racially charged and misleading:

“Americans need to ask themselves if they’ve ever befriended an unrepentant terrorist,” says McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds. The AP called similar remarks by running mate Sarah Palin “racially tinged” and Time said the claim was “simply wrong,” but the McCain campaign shows no signs of backing down from its new strategy.

Though the campaign — especially Palin — pushed the theme throughout the week, it was mysteriously absent from Tuesday’s town hall meeting in Nashville, leading Obama himself to throw down with a dare to McCain during an interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson, stating that if McCain had an accusation to make, he should make it when they’re both in the same place. “…I guess we’ve got one last debate,” Obama told Gibson. “So presumably, if he ends up feeling that he needs to, he will raise it during the debate.”

Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal put it this way:

One almost gets the sense that Barack Obama wants John McCain to confront him directly with some of these guilt-by-association attacks…He’s practically questioning McCain’s fortitude, calling him out for using sleazy tactics behind Obama’s back, but not to his face.

That didn’t stop the McCain camp from putting out another ad that leads with Ayers, and somehow mixes in the subprime mortgage meltown, somehow trying to lay that mess of deregulatory debauchery at Obama’s feet. Salon’s Alex Koppelman reports that the ad is lated to run “nationally”. [Video included at link.]

But it won’t work, says Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who engineered Ronald Reagan’s1984 victory. He’s a guy who knows from landslides (Reagan in ‘84 won every state except Minnesota and the District of Columbia), and he’s predicting one for Obama. Writes Ari Melber at The Nation:

So it means something when an old hand like Ed Rollins unloads on John McCain, as he just did, declaring that the race is over, “no one cares” about McCain’s Ayers attacks, and the GOP nominee must think about the fundamental question, “how do you want to end your career?”

As mentioned, on the stump, the purveyor of the Ayers smear is none other than Sarah Palin, who appears to have some pretty interesting friends of her own, according to Max Blumenthal and David Neiwert writing at Salon. Take, for example, a guy called “Black Helicopter Steve” Stoll, “a John Birch Society activist,” according to Blumenthal and Neiwert, whom Palin tried to appoint to a vacant city council seat in Wasilla. Or Mark Chryson, the former chairman of the the secessionist, who showed the reporters the 9-millimeter Makarov PM pistol he keeps in the glove compartment of his truck, adding, “I’ve got enough weaponry to raise a small army in my basement.” Todd Palin belonged to the Alaska independence Party for seven years.

If that’s not enough to give one pause about the company Palin keeps, check out Michelle Goldberg’s piece in The Nation about the churches Palin attends, and their political pull.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that local churches like the Wasilla Assembly of God, which Palin grew up attending, became aggressively political. A few years before Palin became mayor, a group of preachers confronted the school board with questions about social issues that had never before surfaced in local politics, according to O’Hara, who wrote first for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman and then for the Anchorage Daily News. “They started asking me, ‘Would you allow a homosexual to teach in schools?’ and ‘Do you favor abortion?’” she said. “At the time, I didn’t know what was coming. I said, ‘This is not a school board issue. We have overcrowding. We have funding problems.’” The last time O’Hara ran, conservative pastors mounted an effort to defeat her, saying she favored hiring homosexuals, but they failed. Nevertheless, in 1996, feeling increasingly alienated in a place she’d lived for twenty-five years, she quit the school board and moved to more liberal Anchorage.

The Obama campaign sought to offset McCain’s Project Ayers by reminding voters of the Republican’s very real links to Charles Keating, one of the key players in the collapse of many “savings & loan” lending institutions in the 1980s.

The Nation’s Ari Berman brought readers’ attention to a “breathtaking 1990 exposé” written for his magazine by Robert Sherrill, in which McCain’s role is featured. Berman links the McCain of the S&L scandal to the part he says McCain played in the current economic crisis:

A constant in both crises is John McCain. McCain and four other senators (dubbed the Keating Five) intervened to protect Keating from banking regulators. McCain was later rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for “poor judgment” and embarrassed by the $112,000 in campaign contributions, trips and gifts he had accepted from Keating. Cindy McCain and her father were also partners with Keating in a shopping mall development in Arizona. In his autobiography, McCain called the Keating episode “the worst mistake of my life.”

McCain eventually became a born-again crusader for campaign-finance reform. But he continued to surround himself with corporate lobbyists and push for greater deregulation of the finance industry, missing the greatest lesson from Sherrill’s story: “thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about.”

Dan Schulman of Mother Jones looked at the two organizations to which McCain directed one of his questioners at Tuesday’s town hall forum with Obama. Theresa Finch asked the candidates, “”How can we trust either of you with our money when both parties got us into this global economic crisis?”

It’s not surprising that McCain directed Finch to Citizens Against Government Waste or the National Taxpayers Union. Both anti-spending organizations are ideologically aligned with the Arizona Senator and have ties to his presidential campaign….

CAGW…gives McCain its highest marks–100 percent–in its latest report, though Finch and other voters may want to consider the source before placing stock in the nonprofit’s congressional scorecard. CAGW was one of five nonprofits accused by Senate investigators of “laundering payments and then disbursing funds” at the direction of Jack Abramoff. Earlier this year the Washington Post reported that CAGW was actively helping McCain.

Ezra Klein of The American Prospect noted the concurrence of a drop in McCain’s poll numbers and the Dow Jones, treating readers to a chart from The State of the Union. Klein writes:

It’s a useful reminder that elections are heavily structural. McCain’s problems are, in large part, the product of actual world events that don’t favor Republicans. They’re not the result of some awesome new Obama ads, or Palin, or even McCain’s erratic and odd campaign style.

And it’s not just presidential candidates who are powerless over the whims of the moneymen, according to one author; presidents themselves fare little better. At The Real News Network, author and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson told Paul Jay that he’s skeptical about the claim to real power that any president has over the conduct of the US on the world stage. Johnson went on to critique the visions and advisory teams being unveiled by both Obama and McCain.

Speaking of the world stage, David Corn of Mother Jones examined Palin’s claim to have conducted trade missions with Russia and meetings with representatives of foreign governments. Writes Corn:

But the calendars tracking Palin’s official meetings during her tenure as governor contain not one listing indicating she ever met with a Russian official. In fact, the 562 pages of her daily schedules–obtained by Mother Jones under Alaska’s Open Records Act–indicate that Palin had few meetings at all with any foreign representatives and rarely dealt with any topic related to foreign policy. The schedules include about 20 meetings, events, or phone calls in which Palin interacted with foreign officials.

Then, of course, there’s Troopergate, in which the McCain running made stands accused of using the power of her office of governor to retaliate against a public servant who refused to fire somebody with whom she had a few issues. Writing from Anchorage for The Washington Independent, Laura McGann explained on Friday:

A report released today finds that as Alaska governor, Sarah Palin “abused her power,” a specific violation of state law.

Palin was accused of firing the head of the Alaska safety commission, Walt Monegan, for not intervening in what amounted to a personal family feud. Evidence in the report suggests that Palin and her husband, Todd, pressured Monegan to fire their former brother-in-law, the state trooper Mike Wooten.

As if the week’s relations weren’t enough bad news for Camp McCain, the week ended with word that Christopher Buckley, the conservative son of William F. Buckley, founder of the modern conservative movement, has endorsed Barack Obama, prompting Kevin Drum to write at Mother Jones:

The modern GOP is the party of Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, Karl Rove, George Bush, Dick Cheney, John McCain, and Sarah Palin. It’s not just off the rails. It doesn’t even know where the rails are anymore.

Adele M. Stan

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting
about John McCain. Visit
for a complete list of articles on McCain. And for the best progressive reporting on two
critical issues, check out and is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of 50 leading independent media outlets, and created by NewsLadder. Adele M. Stan is executive editor of The Media Consortium’s syndicated reporting project.

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