22 September 2008

McCain Camp Goes After the NYT & Politico.

Today John McCain’s campaign blew off the New York Times and Politico. Why? Because the Times exposed McCain advisor Rick Davis’s role as an "advocate" for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and because Politico questioned the veracity of some accusations hurled by another McCain advisor.

Maybe there’s something in the water at McCain Campaign Headquarters, but seriously—is attacking the media the best possible way to get your message to the independent voter? Not the base, but the undecided? The ones you need in order to win?

Granted, I can understand any antipathy the McCain camp might feel towards the NYT following that lamentable article on the Senator and lobbyist Vicki Iseman, but the items that provoked today’s blowup are, in fact, verifiable. It seems what made the McCain camp explode was the fact that they’ve been attacking Obama for the past week based on his camp’s associations between former Fannie and Freddie officials: from “Loan Titans Paid McCain Advisor Nearly $2 Million” by David D. Kirkpatrick and Charles Duhigg:

Senator John McCain’s campaign manager was paid more than $30,000 a month for five years as president of an advocacy group set up by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to defend them against stricter regulations, current and former officials say.

Mr. McCain, the Republican candidate for president, has recently begun campaigning as a critic of the two companies and the lobbying army that helped them evade greater regulation as they began buying riskier mortgages with implicit federal backing. He and his Democratic rival, Senator Barack Obama, have donors and advisers who are tied to the companies.

But last week the McCain campaign stepped up a running battle of guilt by association when it began broadcasting commercials trying to link Mr. Obama directly to the government bailout of the mortgage giants this month by charging that he takes advice from Fannie Mae’s former chief executive, Franklin Raines, an assertion both Mr. Raines and the Obama campaign dispute.

Incensed by the advertisements, several current and former executives of the companies came forward to discuss the role that Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager and longtime adviser, played in helping Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac beat back regulatory challenges when he served as president of their advocacy group, the Homeownership Alliance, formed in the summer of 2000. Some who came forward were Democrats, but Republicans, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed their descriptions.

So why did they hire Davis? He helped run McCain’s primary campaign in 2000; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were counting on Davis’s continued relationship with the Senator “and the possibility that Senator McCain was going to run for president again.”

To me, this seems slightly more egregious than "a couple of calls" between Franklin Raines and the Obama camp. Note that Raines denies ever advising the Obama campaign (see Factcheck).

Granted, Mr. Davis has left his lobbyist role behind, so at this point it shouldn’t matter. It’s a former job. What does matter is the fact that the McCain campaign, in its eagerness to back away from the Senator's history as a deregulator and to provide distance from his assertion that “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” prefers to go on the attack and present itself as the victim of a biased media when the story about Mr. Davis's background could have been addressed in a rational manner (one that might appeal to voters).

One of Senator McCain’s top aids held a conference call today not to clarify the Times story, but to complain about the media coverage of the McCain campaign. According to the Washington Post,

In a conference call with reporters, chief strategist Steve Schmidt said: "Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization. This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate."

Unfortunately, during the conference call, Schmidt made numerous factual errors in listing Obama offenses. Politico’s Ben Smith participated in the conference call and then reported on Schmidt’s misstatements:

“Any time the Obama campaign is criticized at any level, the critics are immediately derided as liars,” Schmidt told reporters.

Well, no. Unless Schmidt is talking about when the McCain has been shown as lying or distorting facts about Obama’s record (just click on the FactCheck link to your left for examples). And Schmidt forgets that the media is just as likely to call the Obama camp out on its distortions of McCain’s record (cf. the Spanish language ads, Social Security claims). But complaining about “being derided as liars” doesn’t stop the McCain camp, no sir:

[Schmidt] went on to list a series of stories he thought reporters should be writing about Obama and Biden, in almost every instance he got the details wrong.

[. . . .]
“[Joe Biden’s] son is a lobbyist for the credit card and banking industry,” Schmidt said.

But Hunter Biden’s lobbying clients don’t include any banks or credit card companies. He did work, as a vice president and then as a consultant, for MBNA, a Delaware-based bank and credit card giant to which Biden had close ties. But he does not appear to have lobbied for the firm.

[. . . .]

"What we know for sure, and is beyond debate and argumentation is this: Senator Obama said that William Ayers is a guy that lives in his neighborhood. We know that that is a disingenuous and untruthful answer,” Schmidt said.

“Senator Obama began his political career in its early stages raising money at Ayers’ house,” he said.

Obama did hold a 1995 campaign event at Ayers’ house. It was not, however, a fundraiser, and Ayers did not contribute money to Obama’s first campaign, according to Illinois records.

Schmidt also complained of Obama backers’ attacks on McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“As soon as Gov. Palin was nominated, one of … Obama’s chief campaign surrogates, [Florida Rep.] Robert Wexler, went out and accused her of being a Nazi sympathizer,” Schmidt said. “Where is the outrage to that aspersion on the part of some of the biggest newspapers in the country?”

But Wexler didn’t call Palin a Nazi sympathizer. He called former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan a Nazi sympathizer, and attacked Palin for allegedly having endorsed him.

Smith notes that Palin never endorsed Buchanan, despite the latter’s claims to the contrary.

In a move that certainly helps clear the McCain campaign from allegations that they’re over-fond of stretching the truth, it turns out that “McCain aides could not provide evidence to back up Schmidt’s assertions.” Smith continues:

One McCain aide, Michael Goldfarb, said Politico was “quibbling with ridiculously small details when the basic things are completely right.”

Another, Brian Rogers, responded more directly:

“You are in the tank,” he e-mailed.

Wow. Just wow. You lie, you get caught in a lie, and then you go after the messenger as if you’ve been unjustly targeted. What a novel way to sway your audience and convince them that your administration would approach issues with calm and reason. This seems pretty telling: rather than approach an issue with diplomacy, simply strike back. Don’t think about it, just act.

Update: Newsweek's Michael Isikoff reports that Davis's company remained on the mortgage giants' payroll until last month:

neither the Times story—nor the McCain campaign—revealed that Davis's lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, based in Washington, D.C., continued to receive $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac until last month—long after the Homeownership Alliance had been terminated. The two sources, who requested anonymity discussing sensitive information, told NEWSWEEK that Davis himself approached Freddie Mac in 2006 and asked for a new consulting arrangement that would allow his firm to continue to be paid. The arrangement was approved by Hollis McLoughlin, Freddie Mac's senior vice president for external relations, because "he [Davis] was John McCain's campaign manager and it was felt you couldn't say no," said one of the sources. [McLoughlin did not return phone calls].
Apparently, all involved parties say that Mr. Davis's activities on behalf of Fannie and Freddie were "minimal," which prompts the question: why did his company remain on the lenders' payroll?

1 comment:

Krishna said...

I can't believe i saw it!
McCain his speeches himself admitted that nothing has been understood in the economy!
He said that what is not understood! ))) it is worth it!