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The mysterious John McCain

by Pol Observer

February 22, 2008 | 3:53 pm


I’ve often found myself wondering why John McCain has over the years seemed more popular in the Democratic leadership world and in the media than in the Republican leadership community.

The NY Times story about influence peddling and McCain may help explain at least one piece of this many-sided puzzle: why a number of DC Republicans have often expressed their personal dislike of McCain.

I imagine that some Republicans on Capitol Hill have resented his “St. John” ethics presentation of self, when it conflicts with his actual and continued relations with lobbyists. Congressional Republicans have long been frank about their belief that to the victors go the spoils. They took unprecedented control of DC lobby money after they won Congress in 1994.

Led by Tom DeLay in the House, they bullied lobbying groups into firing Democratic staff members and consultants. (This highly-organized effort was called the K Street Project.) While they paid some small price in public regard for this stance, it was an effective way to entrench their party in power. It outraged Democrats.

So here is McCain, talking with Democrats and acting all high and mighty about not taking money from lobbyists. That might have been more forgivable if it had been a more accurate view of his behavior. Nobody gets mad at Democratic Senator Russ Feingold for talking like that, since he also acts that way.

But it must have been pretty widely known that McCain still was dealing with lobbyists, making calls to government officials, and basically having it both ways, which is what the Times story illustrates. It must have really irked Republican senators to be lectured on ethics by McCain and to see him getting worshipful treatment on the Sunday talk shows as the most ethical and honorable man on Capitol Hill.

Were he not the likely party nominee, a lot of Republican Senators would be chortling that St. John had finally gotten his comeuppance. Instead he has become a martyr to conservatives who loathe the New York Times. Any chortling will have to be done privately.

That leaves for another post the question of where this story leaves McCain with Democrats and the media . . .

[to be continued ...]

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Raphael J. Sonenshein (born 1949 in Nutley, New Jersey) was a political science professor at California State University, Fullerton. He is also served as chairman of the...

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