Teflon John


(ed.note: The first draft of this post was written before the publication of the Times article on McCain and Iseman. So please set aside whatever affairs or influence peddling you think McCain might be involved with to give these other issues their proper due. Thank you. — jmm)

As I’ve noted a few times before, one of the key dynamics of the coming general election race is the unwillingness of most reporters to scrutinize John McCain’s claims and statements to determine whether they are either accurate, contradicted by other public statements or even if they make any sense. One example is the current tussle between McCain and Obama over a pledge to opt in to the public financing system for the general election. McCain is insisting Obama honor his ‘pledge’ to opt in to the public financing system if his Republican opponent (McCain) agrees to do the same. Now, Obama’s going to have to deal with the pledge issue on his own. But it’s impossible to report on this gambit of McCain without at least one spit take. And probably a few more.

Back in August McCain opted into the public financing system for the primaries. Then in December he needed to come up with some cash quickly. Well, no problem. He was already guaranteed over $5 million from the feds. So all he needed to do was put that guarantee down as collateral for the loan.

Only McCain didn’t want to do that because once he formally made the federally-guaranteed money collateral then he gave up his right to later opt back out of the system.

But, he really, really needed the money. So McCain, along with his campaign finance lawyer Trevor Potter (whom I’ve met and is a very sharp guy) came up with a workaround. It went like this. McCain wouldn’t make the guarantee collateral. But he promised that if his campaign tanked he would opt out of the system and then opt back in. This would mean remaining a candidate even after he knew he wasn’t really in the race in order to a) get back the public money to pay his creditors and b) assure he could sign the original loan note with the de facto collateral while nonetheless maintaining his ability to once again opt out of the public financing system at any one of many possible future junctures at which his campaign might pop back from life support and it would be in his interest to go back to raising money from donors.

Of course, McCain’s campaign did come off the mat. And since he now wants to raise and spend as much as possible before the end of the summer, earlier this month he did actually opt back out. The FEC, the outfit that enforces the campaign finance laws, says McCain’s not allowed to opt out. But whatever, he opted out anyway.

Explain to me how this guy gets out of the gate attacking anyone else about honoring pledges tied to the campaign finance system.

McCain’s other angle over the last few days has been to call Obama naive for saying he would take military action in Pakistan, even without the Pakistanis’ permission if they wouldn’t give it. But according to the Post, that’s exactly what the administration did only a month ago when they used Hellfire missiles to kill Abu Laith al-Libi, a top al-Qaeda commander in Pakistan. Here was McCain’s response

Asked about that account as he drove to this small town to address a snowbound crowd at Young’s Jersey Dairy, known for ice cream, McCain demurred, saying he did not know the facts of the situation. But he said Obama was still wrong in speaking publicly about the option.

“The one thing you want to do is not embarrass them,” he said. “I’ve known these people and I have known them for many years. I know I can work with them for the good of the security of the United States. I would not broadcast to the world that I am going to bomb a sovereign nation in order to accomplish my goal.”