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On McCain’s Negative Campaign, Or, Oh No You Didn’t October 6, 2008

Apparently feeling there’s no other way to win, the McCain campaign is now trying to “go negative” in an effort to make Obama unelectable.

Obama has tried to stay above that sort of thing…and while Obama may be a better human being than that…I’m not.

We will divert away from the usual high minded conversation about issues today—and we will instead lay out a few unpleasant facts John McCain would rather you forget about.

Some of today’s discussion reveals McCain’s financial corruption…then there’s McCain giving “aid and comfort to the enemy” back in his Vietnam days…and for those who may have forgotten, a few words about ugly divorces and near-bigamy and the ending of McCain’s friendship with Ronald Reagan.

“I was a U.S. airman engaged in the crimes against the Vietnamese country and people. I had bombed their cities, towns, and villages and caused more injury even death for the people of Vietnam. After I was captured I was taken from a hospital in (?Da Nang) where I received very good medical treatment. I was given an operation on my leg, which allowed me to walk again, and a cast for my right arm which was badly broken in three rpt three places. The doctors were very good and they knew a great deal about the practice of medicine. I remained in the hospital for some time, I regained much of my health and strength.”

John McCain broadcasting from North Vietnam, June 2, 1969

John McCain wants you to know that his steely resolve and unwillingness to bend or break is why he would be a good President, and he points to his POW record as an example of that steely resolve.

Steely resolve?
Maybe not so much.

There are people who claim he was known as “Songbird” McCain by the North Vietnamese…and those who report he was never tortured, including a number of prominent Republicans, Congressman Bob Dornan among them…some of whom also report he received preferential treatment in exchange for his “confessions” while he was a prisoner.

Even McCain admits to his own bad behavior as a POW in an October 12, 1997 60 Minutes interview:

Sen. McCAIN: I m–made serious, serious mistakes and did things wrong when I was in prison, OK?

WALLACE: What did you do wrong in prison?

Sen. McCAIN: I wrote a confession. I was guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese people. I intentionally bombed women and children…

Now to be fair, McCain was not admitting he was guilty of war crimes in that “60 Minutes” interview—what he was admitting was that he was remorseful because he made a confession in the first place…a confession that many other POWs never made, even if it cost them their lives.

But let’s move on…

So your personal political “Godfather” runs a savings and loan that is being investigated for violating rules relating to risky investments—and your wife has lots of money invested with that Godfather in a shopping center deal.

The right thing to do…the brave thing to do…the maverick thing to do…would be to let the regulators do their job—but just like in Vietnam, McCain did not have the courage to do the right thing when it really counted.

Instead, in the 1980s, he and four other Senators intervened to try to stop the investigation by holding meetings with Federal regulators. They had enough success in stopping the investigations that Lincoln Savings & Loan was eventually closed by those same regulators—roughly two years later than it should have been–costing the taxpayer over $3 billion…and lots of elderly investors their life savings.

“You’re a liar,” McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating.

“That’s the spouse’s involvement, you idiot,” McCain said later in the same conversation. “You do understand English, don’t you?”

He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife’s ties to Keating.

“It’s up to you to find that out, kids.”

The Arizona Republic, reporting on McCain’s initial reaction to the Keating Five scandal

The events of that time were responsible for creating a memorable set of “Savings and Loan Scandal” trading cards (one of which featured McCain’s image)—and for making Charles Keating (the big contributor) and the Five Senators forever famous in the lexicon of political dirt and sleaze.

“Now I am going to speak about my wife,” he says spontaneously, “she is not in the armed forces,” he added with a certain humor. “I saw her the last time in August of 1967. At that time I was on the aircraft carrier Forrestal when I fire broke out wich [sic] damaged it heavily and it had to be sent for repairs to the United States. At that time I miraculously escaped with my life because I was in my airplane and the two pilots on my left and the two on my right were killed.”

(How did that happen?)

“A plane caught fire and one of its rockets went off. This in turn caused other explosions. There were 135 deaths, almost all the airplanes were destroyed and the ship was seriously damaged. As a result of the fire I became famous on TV.”

(As one who miraculously escaped death, no?)

“Yes, but in addition I was able to see my family and stay there nearly a month. I then returned this time to the aircraft carrier Oriskany and 1 month later I was shot down.”

(You said that you were going to talk to me about your wife bout [sic] you continue on the subject of the war….)

… “She is very pretty. Before marrying me she was a model for magazines and on TV. We have a 3-year-old girl. When I saw her she was still a baby. She also has two children from a former marriage. She now returned to work as a model on TV.”

John McCain, being interviewed in North Vietnam for the Cuban media, January 24, 1970

It’s not Cindy McCain he’s talking about in that Cuban interview…it’s Carol McCain, the wife who stood by him through the entire war.

In McCain’s book Faith of My Fathers he said this about her:

I had known and admired Carol since Academy days, when she was engaged to one of my classmates. … She was attractive, clever, and kind, and I was instantly attracted to her, and delighted to discover that she was attracted to me.

The “London Daily Mail” describes the same events in this manner:

He first met Carol in the Fifties while he was at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was a privileged, but rebellious scion of one of America’s most distinguished military dynasties – his father and grandfather were both admirals.

But setting out to have a good time, the young McCain hung out with a group of young officers who called themselves the ‘Bad Bunch’.

His primary interest was women and his conquests ranged from a knife-wielding floozy nicknamed ‘Marie, the Flame of Florida’ to a tobacco heiress.

Unfortunately for Carol, she had a car accident during the time of his captivity. Luckily for McCain, he had no problem finding other women to sleep with—and again, I’ll let the “London Daily Mail” take up the story:

But already the McCains’ marriage had begun to fray. ‘John started carousing and running around with women,’ said Robert Timberg.

McCain has acknowledged that he had girlfriends during this time, without going into details. Some friends blame his dissatisfaction with Carol, but others give some credence to her theory of a mid-life crisis.

He was also fiercely ambitious, but it was clear he would never become an admiral like his illustrious father and grandfather and his thoughts were turning to politics.

In 1979 – while still married to Carol – he met Cindy at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Over the next six months he pursued her, flying around the country to see her. Then he began to push to end his marriage.

Carol and her children were devastated. ‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Nancy Reynolds, a former Reagan aide.

‘They never displayed any difficulties between themselves. I know the Reagans were quite shocked because they loved and respected both Carol and John.’

Another friend added: ‘Carol didn’t fight him. She felt her infirmity made her an impediment to him. She justified his actions because of all he had gone through. She used to say, “He just wants to make up for lost time.”’

The Reagans?
Yes, the Reagans.

By this time Ronald and Nancy Reagan were friends of the McCains’ (along with Ross Perot)—and Nancy Reagan has never forgiven McCain, the “Los Angeles Times” reports, for the way he treated Carol. For that matter, neither has Perot.

The “Times” also reports that McCain was not yet divorced from Carol when he obtained his license to marry Cindy—in fact, despite what he said later, he wasn’t even legally separated at the time the license was granted, and had been dating Cindy for nine months before he and Carol separated.

So McCain marries Cindy…and except for that Keating Five thing, they apparently live as happily ever after as a couple could when the husband violently insults the wife in front of others (warning: link contains highly offensive language).

“I want the best kind of campaign and most positive kind of campaign”

John McCain, on a campaign conference call in April, 2008

…One thing she said she will not give back, though, is negative campaigning. During McCain’s first run for president in the 2000 Republican primaries, he was hit by smear tactics, some of which were aimed at his adopted daughter, Bridget.

Mrs. McCain said that the upcoming campaign against either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton would not engage in negative tactics.

“We’d rather not win than to have to do that,” Mrs. McCain said. “That’s not worth winning for. This is about being a leader and a person that can be a good example for our children, and a good role model. There’s many, many, many more things to this job than just being the president. You are an example. You have to — you have to be better than that. You have to be.”

–From an MSNBC report on Cindy McCain’s Today Show interview by Ann Curry, May 8, 2008

So the guy who said he wanted to run the best kind of positive campaign apparently now thinks his best shot is to positively run the most negative campaign he can dredge up—even stooping to hire for the 2008 McCain Presidential campaign the very people George Bush hired to defame the 2000 McCain Presidential campaign.

To put it another way, the candidate who lives in somewhere between 7 and 11 glass houses now wants to throw stones at the candidate he couldn’t beat by claiming the economy is “fundamentally sound”.

Or to put it still another way: one candidate would rather not win than go negative…until that candidate is actually losing.

At that point it’s time to go with the Karl Rove plan: damn the stones, and full glass houses ahead!

Which brings us to the lesson for today: if 2000 you would campaign against 2008 you…and a lot of that is because of your negative campaigning…and you face a choice between your self-respect and trying to outrank your father at any cost…the smart move is to go for the self-respect.

Go positive, and risk losing with honor.
Go negative, and risk being crushed by your own ugly past—and your ugly future.

It’s a tough choice…but if you truly want to win: you’ll lose with honor.

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