Thursday, February 21, 2008

Politician Sex

Most good liberals feel that what a candidate does in his or her private life should not have a bearing on how we regard them in office, or whether we should elect them. As a good progressive, I tend to share this view, but will nonetheless comment on the McCain- Iseman story, because of some of its implications. Frankly, I think the story is probably true. While it is possible that this was a smear, and the Times is simply out to get McCain, I don't think so. I doubt they'd go where they did if they didn't know this story was true.
McCain cheated on his first wife multiple times before his first wife with multiple people before leaving her for his a wealthy heiress. Additionally, his campaign obviously didn't want to address the central claim.
I like the way Peter Sagal puts this.

For example, in the book, I point out how President Clinton, when first confronted with the Monica Lewinsky allegation, kept trying to move the topic from “did I have sex with her” (which of course, he did) to “Did I ask her to lie about it?” which, he always maintained, he never did. (As I point out in the book, there’s some evidence he actually did, but if so, it was never proved.) This is natural — any good general wants to pick the best ground for a fight.

So, I was interested in the first statements from the McCain campaign and then from McCain himself this morning — it was all about whether or not he’d betrayed the public trust, presumably by using his office to benefit the lobbyist. Not whether or not he’d canoodled with the woman in question. That, to me, was a strong indication of where, at least, they wanted to have this argument. However, this morning, McCain gave a very clear, if extremely brief, denial of the “intimacy” allegation… here it is, in its entirety: “No.”

Will that go down in history along with Clinton’s “I didn’t have sex with that woman?” It seems, at the very least, calculated to be more forgettable if proven untrue. A friend who works in Washington press circles tells me that the big problem with adultery stories is that newspaper standards call for someone with first hand knowledge of the affair to go on record. Which means that one of the two (or more!) parties has to confess, and that almost never happens. In fact, one could argue that Clinton’s greatest failing was not his flings, but the people he chose to have them with… unreliable, flighty, prone to talk about it. McCain, like the thousands of experienced pols who’ve come and gone before him, would never have made that error, so we may never know what happened.

Whatever truth is about this, it is in my opinion only worth watching for its political ramifications. The real scandal here is the influence peddling that McCain was clearly involved in. It comes down to McCain trying to intervene in the regulatory process for a company that provided him thousands of dollars. Maybe that isn't as palpable as an affair, but it hardly shows "integrity".

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