Some Random and Humorous Political Stuff:

1. If you haven't seen Mike Huckabee's funny appearance on SNL this weekend it is here (watch to the end).

2. Here is the SNL skit on the Obama-Clinton race.

3. Funny line by one of my colleagues the other day: "Hillary's struggles can be attributed to the fact that the Democratic Party doesn't want to have two Yale-educated lawyers in the White House again. Obviously they want something completely different."

4. Does it seem to anyone else like this dubious NY Times story from last week has been a great windfall for John McCain? It certainly has united conservative talk radio and the blogosphere on his side against the "common enemy" (at least temporarily).

arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
McCain's online fundraising reached an all time high following the new york times article. So yes it's a windfall.
2.25.2008 10:43am
rarango (mail):
the NYT's piece certainly manage to rally the McCain opponents among the conservative base. Yes: windfall; and will be forgotten in a month. (sure would have been nice to have a sex scandle though: a triumph for old men everywhere the oscar best picture nothwithstanding).
2.25.2008 10:47am
Orielbean (mail):
With any luck, the media will manage to become the John Kerry for the Democrats this year - taking any actual advantages and squandering them with missteps and foolish decisions where a victory was all but certain.

I mean, the sex scandal versus the easy question of his cozy lobbyist relationships? The financial integrity angle was the simple home run, and the sex scandal was like trying to steal home with the bases loaded on 2 outs. Idiots.
2.25.2008 10:54am
Calvin Pantinga:
2.25.2008 10:56am
rarango (mail):
in my 10:47 change "scandle" to "scandal!" Retain "sex." :)
2.25.2008 10:59am
Thales (mail) (www):
What really was so dubious about the story? It was newsworthy, not really timed at a particularly hurtful moment (i.e. not an October surprise), and was supposedly backed by sources who independently corroborated each other. I agree the "sex scandal" is probably a non-issue, but the article pointed out that it was really McCain's apparent unconcern for the appearance of impropriety that bothered his staff. Perspective may be in order, as David Brooks noted: if McCain has one cozy lobbyist friend per an average member of Congress's 50, then that's still a high level of integrity. But one shouldn't forget that McCain's zeal for campaign finance reform, fighting special interest earmarks, and ethics came because he made some dubious decisions in getting involved with Charles Keating. If he has reformed, great, even better if he helps clean up the country along the way. But it is fair to investigate credible allegations of him slipping. The right wing media outrage about the "liberal" Times was both predictable and vapid. The article was tame compared to the close scrutiny the Clintons' every move has been subjected to.
2.25.2008 11:03am
Zywicki (mail):
rarango: It would've also been good advertising if McCain were positioning himself to follow in Bob Dole's footsteps as presidential candidate turned pharma pitchman in the event he loses the election...
2.25.2008 11:08am
Thales (mail) (www):
Interesting perspective from Reason:
2.25.2008 11:09am
rarango (mail):
Zywicki: Good point and hadn't considered that. It would be a natural progression for Senator McCain!
2.25.2008 11:11am
catullus (mail):
It was the total absence of sources on the record that lent the piece its unsavory air. Innuendo; the trademark of good old Joe McCarthy. All the news that's fit to print???
2.25.2008 11:34am
Orielbean (mail):
They are finally catching up with the Fox News headline splash / smear question - "McCain - Senator or Philanderer?" Who needs sources?!
2.25.2008 11:42am
Houston Lawyer:
Republicans know a smear when they see one. Here we have a story where the participants in a meeting tell a different story than what is reported and the Times's alleged sources weren't even at the meeting. The sexual angle of it appears made up out of whole cloth.

What Republicans also understand is that this would not have been printed if McCain were on the Democrat ticket.
Try to imagine a front page headline story about Obama being a closet Muslim. I believe each story would have the same amount of credibility, but only one would be printed.
2.25.2008 12:47pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Actually, the article did quote both named and two unnamed sources that were supposedly highly placed in the Senator's 2000 campaign. Obviously the unwillingness to be named is one factor in weighing the credibility of the sources and story, but hardly a dispositive one (remember Deep Throat?)
2.25.2008 12:48pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Additionally, McCain wrote letters on behalf of the lobbyist's client, which are part of the public record. Contrast the whole cloth insinuation about Barack Obama being a crypto-Muslim. The Times article (and related WP piece) isn't a hit piece, it's just news, and it's relevant.
2.25.2008 12:59pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Although I'm not wearing my tinfoil hat, I'm going to say that leaking this story was a pre-emptive strike by the McCain camp. It broke long before the election, so that the McCain people had plenty of time to address it, and so that the impact if any could die down. The story involves only the appearance of impropriety, putting it on a par with Carter's lusting in his heart. And it inoculates the public against further lobbyist "scandals" should any crop up later ("Oh yeah, there was nothing to that the time before.") Note further that Hillary said that she was the best candidate in that there was no more dirt to be dug up on her, that the press had previously exposed it all, and she survived.

The side benefits are that the story leaves people with the impression that the elderly McCain is still a vital stud, and enlists the sympathy of the right for McCain, against the common enemy, the liberal media.
2.25.2008 1:11pm
Houston Lawyer:
Care to cite a front page NYT article about a member of congress actually sending a letter to a client of a lobbyist friend? I'm sure no senator or congressman has ever done that before.

No one would have bothered to publish the article about this activity even in a blog if the sex angle wasn't thrown in. It's just too boring. If they were trying to make the point that McCain isn't as reformed as he claims to be, they certainly stepped all over that story.
2.25.2008 1:17pm
Always retain sex whenever possible. But don't get caught.

As to point #4 above. I think most people knew that the conservative talk radio hosts and Fox news channel commentaters would find a reason to get back behind McCain. Lambasting McCain for not being conservative enough was great when he wasn't the nominee, but now that he is certainly going to be (Isn't it already a mathematical certainty?) they are going to rally behind him, prior rants notwithstanding.
2.25.2008 1:20pm
Lambasting McCain for not being conservative enough was great when he wasn't the nominee, but now that he is certainly going to be (Isn't it already a mathematical certainty?) they are going to rally behind him, prior rants notwithstanding.

It's not in the bag. McCain still has to earn their love, and more importantly, conservative votes. VP choice will go a long way to healing the breach.
2.25.2008 1:39pm
bittern (mail):
Re #4, the other theory is that full and vocal support of McCain by right-wing radio isn't going to do him any good with the independents. So maybe the story was put out from inside the McCain camp -- by a double agent.

Re #1, Mike sure seems a good-humored fellow.
2.25.2008 1:46pm
Buckland (mail):
The thing that struck me on the Huckabee video was the incredible sense of timing he has. Probably from presenting sermons.

SNL has politicians on from time to time, and most are way out of their league with the limited comedy they're entrusted with. However Huckabee seemed to understand the idea of comic timing and how to deliver a line correctly.

Not sure that's a qualification for a president, but on that he's head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates.
2.25.2008 1:50pm
Baseballhead (mail):
<blockquote>Lambasting McCain for not being conservative enough was great when he wasn't the nominee, but now that he is certainly going to be (Isn't it already a mathematical certainty?) they are going to rally behind him, prior rants notwithstanding.
It's not in the bag. McCain still has to earn their love, and more importantly, conservative votes.</blockquote></b>
Be assured he will. He's knelt before Falwell and made his pilgrimage to Bob Jones U. He's recanted, reversed, or withdrawn his positions on immigration, tax cuts, torture, and campaign finance. Be sure that, if there's anyone out there with a GOP membership card, McCain will find some way to kowtow to them.

I used disagree with McCain on a plethora of issues, but at least he had my respect. Now, he's just a politically palatable hand puppet.
2.25.2008 1:54pm

The Times article (and related WP piece) isn't a hit piece, it's just news, and it's relevant.

I don't think anyone is questioning whether or not an inproper relationship with a lobbyist (be it sexual or political) is newsworthy.

It's just that the NYT piece didn't offer any substantive evidence of this. They merely implied it, in a manner that seems deliberately designed to shield them from having to defend that claim.

It's called innuendo and it's a basic no-no at even the most amateur levels of journalism. It's the kind of shady reporting and tabloid fodder you would expect from the National Enquirer, not the "paper of record".

They could have just as easily suggested that he was a child molester. Of course, that's a far-fetched accusation that nobody would have believed. But an affair carries an instant impression of credibility. After all he is a politician and this was an attractive young woman.

The New Rupblic has an interesting account of the internal catfight that errupted between reporters and editors over whether or not to run the story.
2.25.2008 2:26pm
JosephSlater (mail):
I don't know enough about the McCain story to comment on it, but the NYT report presented too good of an opportunity for the right-wing talking heads to pass up, and not just because some want to make some peace with McCain. At least as importantly, IMHO, this gives them a chance to push the meme that The Traditional Media Is Horribly Biased (and so you have to listen to us).

That idea is central to the purported rasion d'etre (I just like using a French phrase in this context) of right-wing talk radio. It's not just that they are giving a conservative opinion on things. It's that the "Mainstream Media" ("Drive by Media," "Liberal Media," etc.) is terribly biased, and thus you can only get the Real Truth listening to right-wing talk radio. Mark how often right-wing talkers and their defenders (even on this blog) comment on how the "main stream media" won't report certain things because of its bias.

So, the twofer of starting the process of accepting McCain and taking a shot at the NYT was too perfect to pass up. Will this matte much in the long run? I doubt it.
2.25.2008 3:17pm
JosephSlater (mail):
"matter" not "matte" (although I doubt this will matte much either).
2.25.2008 3:18pm
Bill Woods (mail):
"raison" not "rasion", but that won't matte eithe.
2.25.2008 5:31pm
JosephSlater (mail):

Good catc
2.25.2008 5:34pm
Belvedere jones:
Interesting. The Link to the Huckabee skit works, but the link to the Obama-Clinton skit gets you a mesage:

"This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by NBC Universal"
2.25.2008 6:09pm
LM (mail):
The Times screwed the same pooch Mary Mapes did. In their greed for a sensational piece of sexual innuendo, they overreached. Thanks to them, Rush now has a hook to drag the story back to the Times' incompetence, bias and void of credibility whenever a new development threatens to reveal McCain's complicity with influence-peddling lobbyists.
2.25.2008 8:04pm
LM (mail):
Joseph Slater,

Somehow I missed your comment before posting mine. Obviously it covers much of the same ground.
2.25.2008 8:07pm
~aardvark (mail):
There is some weird stuff among responses here, but much of it is predictable. Apparently, in some audiences any accusations against Republicans are "smears". The one particularly loony response comes from LM just now:

The Times screwed the same pooch Mary Mapes did. In their greed for a sensational piece of sexual innuendo, they overreached.

Plenty of similar stuff by others as well. The problem is that they focus on the minor point of sexual innuendo--which even the Times has admitted was not helpful--and completely miss the elephant in the room. It is completely irrelevant whether there was any sexual relationship between McCain and this 32 year old (at the time) woman. If anything, the apparent virility (even though it was eight years ago) would enhance McCain's image in some people's eyes. And, if he ran the entitlement campaign like Bob Dole, he would end up with the same employers in the end.

Far more damaging--and, of course, all responses both from the campaign and from the radio-nuts conveniently omit this point--is the relationship with lobbyists, particularly with this lobbyist for whom McCain unquestionably did a serious favor. And, as usual, the story itself is not half as damaging as the cover-up. NYT has been sitting on the story for months, trying to fend off McCain's campaign efforts to spike it. That's strike one against McCain--his people claimed that they did not try to spike it, while the evidence is clear that they did.

McCain denied doing anything out of the ordinary on behalf of the clients of this lobbyist. That's absurd, according to McCain's own testimony! McCain also denied meeting with Paxson Communications, when the company's chief not only confirmed the meeting, but also stated that the lobbyist was there as well. Following the meeting, McCain wrote the letter to FCC, threatening to reorganize the agency if they did not rule in favor of Paxson (by refusing to close a loophole in the regulatory regime). All of this has been denied by McCain--his blanket denials make absolutely no sense and give Dems the ammunition for the campaign. From this incident we learn that 1) McCain is a liar, 2) McCain is just as corrupt (or, at least, as tainted) as the rest of the establishment, 3) McCain's use of top lobbyists in his campaign is not incidental (and one of them has been conducting his lobbying business straight out of the campaign offices), 4) McCain does not understand the meaning of the term "appearance of impropriety", 5) McCain's judgment is based on subjective personal views that do not have a firm grasp of reality (at least, unlike Idiot-in-Chief, McCain has some sense of reality).

How bad is it? Yeah, sure, McCain's fundraising has shot up. But let me suggest tempered optimism on this--1) donors are perfectly willing to follow a candidate who has essentially secured his party nomination, but 2) Romney people are talking about Romney getting back into the campaign. If this happens, the "assured" nomination will start to crumble and the money will dry up. Add to that the fact that McCain has only $5 million left before reaching the spending limits through August that he may have to go to court to remove (and may lose there as well). And, with something other than Huck as an alternative, the same talking heads will turn on McCain and proclaim that NYT was absolutely correct in its story and that McCain cannot be trusted. The reason they cannot do so now is because this move would guaranty a loss in November.

In less than a year, McCain went from presumptive front-runner to dead, to front-runner, to the undead. He might as well put a dunce cap on with the sign, "I do favors for lobbyists!"
2.25.2008 9:01pm
LM (mail):

Did you actually read all four lines of my comment, or did you just decide in the middle of the second that you'd seen enough?
2.25.2008 9:41pm
~aardvark (mail):
LM, we agree on the conclusion when it comes to Rush, but your comment on "Mary Mapes" is absurd as is the claim about NYT "greed for sexual innuendo". Chances are, they included the sexual bit to enhance the credibility of the lobbying bit, but, of course, it predictably backfired. The trouble is, there is no easy way to figure out why the handlers would have panicked and blocked access, unless there was some hanky-panky going on. But there is a huge difference between the 60 Minutes story and this one. Rather &Co rushed with documents that they did not know to be authentic. The post facto claims of "fake but accurate" do not exactly enhance credibility. Here, you have known problems that have been packed away for eight years, but the facts are largely unchallenged. As soon as McCain tried to challenge/deny them, he immediately got caught in a lie.

It is complete nonsense that the story gave Rush etc a hook to rip the story apart. These guys will hook onto anything--true or untrue. And their problem is that McCain is all they have at the moment. If Romney re-enters, they will suddenly believe the story and back the Golden Boy. These are not just whores, they are sycophant whores. Blaming someone else for their spread of disease is just plain wrong.
2.25.2008 10:00pm
JosephSlater (mail):
On a slightly different note, picking up on the previous post, is there a significant chance Romney will re-enter?
2.25.2008 11:36pm
LM (mail):

It has nothing to do with the integrity of the Right Wing critics. It has everything to do with the predictability of the criticism if standards are elided and the effectiveness of that criticism at distracting from the substantive story. Apparently, most of the Times' feedback from regular liberal readers like myself sees it the same way.
2.26.2008 1:37am