Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne sets the stage:
Boy, you know the McCain campaign is having a bad week when it tries, yet again, to intimidate the press and tells people not to pay attention to newspapers.
Steve Schmidt, the McCain campaign's chief operating officer, held a conference call yesterday to run down the press for calling his campaign out for lies and half-truths. He particularly singled out The Times, which yesterday reported that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis had received some $2 million for serving as "president of an advocacy group set up by the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to defend them against stricter regulations." This was embarrassing, especially because McCain has made a big deal of any ties Barack Obama has had to Fannie and Freddie folks.
"Whatever the New York Times once was, it is not today by any standard a journalistic organization," Schmidt said. "It is a pro-Obama organization that every day attacks Sen. McCain, attacks Gov. Palin, and excuses Sen. Obama." (See also Howie Kurtz's story in The Post.)
Give me a break.
First, what really hurt the McCain folks about The Times story was that it was true.
Naturally McCain would have his staff go off on the New York Times -- how dare they publish the truth -- gets in the way of the McCain's serial lying.
The facts are that top McCain adviser Rick Davis was paid close to $2 million - $35,000 a month for almost five years -- by Fannie Mae in lobbying fees -- why, you ask?
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.
"The value that he brought to the relationship was the closeness to Senator McCain and the possibility that Senator McCain was going to run for president again," said Robert McCarson, a former spokesman for Fannie Mae, who said that while he worked there from 2000 to 2002, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together paid Mr. Davis's firm $35,000 a month. Mr. Davis "didn't really do anything," Mr. McCarson, a Democrat, said.
Money for nothing? No, money for influence within "Deregulation McCain's" office.
Second, a lot of what Schmidt said on his conference call with reporters was not true. Ben Smith fact checked Schmidt's call for Politico and concluded that it was "so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy."
Third, the Obama campaign provided a helpful list of 40 stories "the NY Times has written over the course of the campaign about Barack Obama, his life, his religion, his childhood, his politics, his time in the state senate, his time in the U.S. Senate, his family, his religion, his friends, his fundraising and all other manner of associations."
The bottom line: The McCain campaign just doesn't want anyone to call them out on anything. It hopes to intimidate reporters and discredit those who try to give an honest account of the campaign. As Joe Klein noted on his blog, Schmidt's theory must be that "if he complains enough about press bias, we mainstream sorts will cower, cringe and try to seek false equivalences between the two campaigns." Here's hoping that there is great resistance to cowering and cringing.
McCain runs TV ads full of blatant lies, then screams that the media is biased and exhorts the public to ignore the elitist media -- the same media who are exposing the lies of John McCain.
I never thought John McCain would turn out to be as bad as George Bush, but he has...
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