George Will Sums Up McCain’s “Unattractive Righteousness”

George Will, voicing the position of those (like Mitch McConnell) who don’t like getting attacked for doing things their attacker has done, captures the state of McCain’s hypocrisy regarding lobbyists and campaign finance.

First, the Times muddied, with unsubstantiated sexual innuendo about a female lobbyist, a story about McCain’s flights on jets owned by corporations with business before the Senate Commerce Committee, and his meeting with a broadcaster (McCain at first denied it happened; the broadcaster insists it did, and McCain now agrees) who sought and received McCain’s help in pressuring the Federal Communications Commission. Perhaps McCain did nothing corrupt, but he promiscuously accuses others of corruption, or the "appearance" thereof. And he insists that the appearance of corruption justifies laws criminalizing political behavior — e.g., broadcasting an electioneering communication that "refers to" a federal candidate during the McCain-Feingold blackout period close to an election.


Although his campaign is run by lobbyists; and although his dealings with lobbyists have generated what he, when judging the behavior of others, calls corrupt appearances; and although he has profited from his manipulation of the taxpayer-funding system that is celebrated by reformers — still, he probably is innocent of insincerity. Such is his towering moral vanity, he seems sincerely to consider it theoretically impossible for him to commit the offenses of appearances that he incessantly ascribes to others.

Such certitude is, however, not merely an unattractive trait. It is disturbing righteousness in someone grasping for presidential powers.

Will adds a little detail to the dynamics of the Von Spakovsky nomination I laid out the other day. The guy who originally mobilized opposition to Von Spakovsky, Trevor Potter, is the same guy McCain will rely on to argue that–in spite of receiving benefits from his decision to accept matching funds–McCain should not be held to the requirements imposed by that decision.

Von Spakovsky is as skeptical as [former FEC Chair Bradley] Smith is about the entanglement of politics in regulations for which McCain is primarily responsible. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, refusing to surrender the settled principle that each party chooses its FEC members, insists that all four be voted on as a package.

McCain, although rarely reticent about matters concerning campaign regulations, has said nothing in defense of von Spakovsky, the campaign against whom has been led by the Campaign Legal Center, whose president is Trevor Potter, general counsel of the McCain campaign.

That is, Potter will argue that McCain should be able to back out of matching funds, if he ever gets the chance to argue it, which currently relies on the resolution of Von Spakovsky’s nomination.

I do wonder what motivated Will to write this column right now. Was he nudged by those still angry about McCain’s early campaign finance reforms?

13 replies
  1. phred says:

    I have no idea about the timing, but “towering moral vanity” is a keeper — and an apt description of the entire Rethug enterprise these days.

  2. dalloway says:

    I still think the far right and/or the evangelicals are going to kneecap McCain before the convention. I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop the dime on him via compromising pictures with Iseman or another decorative blonde, or reveal some financial misconduct that St. John can’t explain away. Or they “convince” him to withdraw for “health” reasons, via blackmail that’s never made public. Then Huckabee and Romney (who never officially dropped out of the race, but only “suspended” his campaign) duke it out for the nomination. The hate radio crowd would much rather lose to the Democrats (so they can pound us for four years) than have the presidency in the hands of a Republican who might not be owned and operated by them once he’s sworn in.

      • bmaz says:

        I suggest people start asking McCain “If you are elected President, will you pardon Charlie Keating”? He will be forced to emphatically say “No!” and will undoubtedly expound a little. Charlie Keating is still alive, kicking and holds a grudge against McCain for turning his back on him. Keating also holds a ton of solid dirt on McCain that hasn’t previously been particularly made public. Making McCain answer this question a few times in public will likely will explode Keating’s festering wounds and pride and motivate him to let loose. I am pretty sure it would not take much.

        • obsessed says:

          >I suggest people start asking McCain “If you are elected President, will you pardon Charlie Keating”?

          great idea!

        • JohnJ says:

          I wish some of our Democratic Party stratigests would start thinking that way. If they had, we wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with.

        • Quzi says:

          bmaz — I like the way you think again! Why are the Dems so dense most of the time?

          Jim White — great the YouTube clip. McCain is the biggest hypocrite – but W is the worst pREsident ever…

  3. Phoenix Woman says:

    Never forget: The man’s full name is John Sidney McCain III, and the only reason he got into politics is because his Naval career had stalled out and he was never going to be an admiral like his granddad and daddy. Cindy’s millions came in mighty handy for this.

    • scribe says:

      That’s not a little unfair. It’s one thing for an officer to be something of a screw-up and a drunken hellraiser, which he was, at least by comparison to his forebears. The fact of who his forebears were gave him a lot of slack within the military – that’s just the way it is. I saw the same thing with the generals’ and colonels’ sons I served alongside – they got slack the non-son-of-a-career-officer would not get.

      But, becoming a PW changes the whole calculus. Post-capture and return, they get some special solicitude and maybe a little more rank than they would have achieved had they not been captured. They get promoted along with their peers even while in captivity. And that goes for officer as well as enlisted. A sergeant I served with had been a PW in Vietnam (and it showed – he looked ancient from the experience). No one even had to mention it – when he needed covering for (his treatment had taken most of his energy away), he got it without anyone ever mentioning it.

      So, McCain might never have become a fleet commander or CINCPAC like his forebears, but had he stayed in (IIRC, he retired shortly after hitting his 20 years) he likely would have gotten a flag of his own and some notable job – one important but not on the main stream of career advancement and ultimately a dead end – where he could have been held up to the rank and file.

      His getting out when he did was likely motivated by the opportunity of politics which may have been apparent (or made apparent) to him while he was in the Navy.

  4. freepatriot says:

    I do wonder what motivated Will to write this column right now. Was he nudged by those still angry about McCain’s early campaign finance reforms?

    the rats are eating their own, and you wonder why ???

    some of this might be “make nice” gestures toward the Democrats by repuglitards who can read the writing on the wall

    or maybe Will just has his own finger in the wind, and senses a change coming …

    we could drive ourselves crazy figuring out what this is about

    but that kinda interferes with the enjoyment of it all

    • pinson says:

      Campaign finance restrictions are something Will writes about often. He HATES them on free speech grounds, and I can’t say I blame him.

  5. selise says:

    I do wonder what motivated Will to write this column right now. Was he nudged by those still angry about McCain’s early campaign finance reforms?

    i agree with others who’ve said that we’re seeing an inter-republican fight – but i don’t think it’s necessarily lead by the religious right, or even people still pissed about campaign finance reforms (although i expect they are allies). from a comment i left at fdl yesterday:

    a very cursory review on tuesday made me wonder if we’re not seeing some republican infighting and we’re (the dems/progressives/left of center) are jumping in on the side of the anti-mccain faction.

    this is all just the realm of wild speculation…. so please don’t take it as anything more than a question (or really a series of questions).

    1. doesn’t mccain look dirty as hell from his time on the indian affairs committee? especially with regard to apparently threatening and potentially blackmailing the abramoff wing? and then covering up for them?

    2. doesn’t it seem weird that the nyt would write a piece on mccain’s relationships with lobbyists by focusing on time when mccain (on the commerce committee) was involved in the debate over telco consolidation. an issue where the nyt sure looks far, far more corrupt than mccain (who was one of only a handful of senators to vote against the telecomunicaitons bill in (i think) 1996? isn’t that in issue where the dems look very bad?

    3. were the sources of the recent nyt piece sourced to republicans?

    so why does the nyt focus on an issue that (as far as i know) mccain was not as corrupt as either the MSM or the clinton administration and ignore the issue that looks (to me in my ignorance) to be the real dirt on mccain?

    just does not compute for me.

    if i were republican political operative who wanted to safely attack mccain, i’d pick something that if followed up carefully would lead to more corruption by the outlet i’m leaking to and the opposing party. i wouldn’t pick something that would, if followed up, lead to abramoff and his crew of republicans.

    since i know so little about mccain’s history, i likely have it all wrong… hoping someone can correct me on the backstory and explain wtf is going on.

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