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There Goes Another Republican October 29, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain.
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Shays concedes McCain defeat

Staff Reporter, Yale Daily News
Published Tuesday, October 28, 2008

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — The first ballot has yet to be tallied, but some Republicans are already hammering nails into the McCain-Palin campaign’s coffin.

Locked in a tight congressional race, Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut’s 4th district is the latest in a slew of Republican incumbents, including Sen. Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, to concede a near-certain victory to the Obama camp.

“I just don’t see how [McCain] can win,” Shays said in an interview here on Sunday.

Shays, the Connecticut co-chair of McCain’s campaign, said he was disappointed by the standards of McCain’s race, which has increasingly relied on mudslinging.

“He has lost his brand as a maverick; he did not live up to his pledge to fight a clean campaign,” Shays said.

But Shays — who is famous for never running a negative campaign ad, even when behind — said the negativity in the presidential race has nevertheless been flowing both ways. He said that though they have been diluted by positive ads, Sen. Obama’s campaign has empirically run a greater number of negative ones.

“Obama has four times the amount of money McCain has, so for every negative ad he runs he can balance it with an upbeat one,” Shays said. “McCain, on the other hand, has been nearly 100 percent negative.”

Shays laid much of the blame on the far right, which, he said, has “hijacked” the Republican Party, threatening to walk out if its demand are not met — despite being in the minority.

He said this situation is a cautionary tale for the Democratic Party, whose Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and MoveOn.org have imposed their often-radical ideas on the rest of the party.

But Shays also said he was skeptical of Sen. Obama’s promise to rule from the political center.

“It’s what all presidents should do, but [Obama] has never been there,” he said, referring to Obama’s left-of-center congressional record.

McCain’s other Connecticut co-chair, Sen. Joseph Lieberman ’64 LAW ’67, has not publicly commented on McCain’s chances on Election Day, but he has continued to campaign for him, most recently in Florida on Monday.

Jeff Grappone, New England communications director for the McCain campaign, did not return several requests for comment Monday.

Loan Titans Paid McCain Advisor Nearly $2 Million September 22, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, John McCain.
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by: David D. Kirkpatrick and Charles Duhigg, The New York Times

photo
Rick Davis with John McCain and Lindsey Graham at the RNC. (Photo: Paul Sancya / AP)

    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.

    “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.

    Mr. Davis’s role with the group has bubbled up as an issue in the campaign, but the extent of his compensation and the details of his role have not been reported previously.

    Mr. McCain was never a leading critic or defender of the mortgage giants, although several former executives of the companies said Mr. Davis did draw Mr. McCain to a 2004 awards banquet that the companies’ Homeownership Alliance held in a Senate office building. The organization printed a photograph of Mr. McCain at the event in its 2004 annual report, bolstering its clout and credibility. The event honored several other elected officials, including at least two Democrats, Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania and Representative Artur Davis of Alabama.

    In an interview Sunday night with CNBC and The New York Times, Mr. McCain noted that Mr. Davis was no longer working on behalf of the mortgage giants. He said Mr. Davis “has had nothing to do with it since, and I’ll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it.”

    Asked about the reports of Mr. Davis’s role, a spokesman for Mr. McCain said that during the time when Mr. Davis ran the Homeownership Alliance, the senator had backed legislation to increase oversight of the mortgage companies’ accounting and executive compensation. The legislation, however, did not seek to change their anomalous structure as private companies with federal support.

    The spokesman, Tucker Bounds, also noted that the Homeownership Alliance included nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity and the Urban League. “It’s not controversial to promote homeownership and minority homeownership,” Mr. Bounds said. More than a half-dozen current and former executives, however, said the Homeownership Alliance was set up mainly to defend Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by promoting their role in the housing market, and the two companies paid almost the entire cost of the group’s operations.

    “They were financed largely, possibly exclusively, by Fannie and Freddie,” said William R. Maloni, a Democrat who is a former head of industry relations for Fannie Mae. “We thought it would be helpful to have someone who was a broadly recognized Republican to be the face of the organization, and that person became Rick Davis.” Mr. Maloni added, “Rick, for that purpose, turned out to be quite good.” (Several executives said Mr. Davis’s compensation was not unusual for the companies’ well-connected consultants.)

    The federal bailout of the two mortgage giants has become an emblem of what critics say is the outdated or inadequate regulatory system that allowed the financial system to slide into crisis this summer.

    At the time that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac recruited Mr. Davis to run the Homeownership Alliance in 2000, they were under new pressure from private industry rivals and deregulation-minded Republicans who argued that the two companies’ federal sponsorship gave them an unfair advantage and put taxpayers at risk. Critics of the companies had formed their own Washington-based advocacy group, FM Watch. They were pushing for regulations that would deter the companies from expanding into new areas, including riskier and more profitable mortgages.

    Mr. Davis had recently returned to his lobbying firm from running Mr. McCain’s unexpectedly strong 2000 Republican primary campaign, which elevated Mr. McCain’s profile as a legislator and Mr. Davis’s as a lobbyist.

    “You can say what you want about free-market distortions, but people like the system because it gets them into houses cheap,” Mr. Davis said to Institutional Investor magazine in 2000, adding that he would run the advocacy group out of his Alexandria, Va., lobbying firm.

    The organization also hired Public Strategies, a communications firm that included former Bush adviser Mark McKinnon. Mr. Davis wrote letters and gave speeches for the group. In April 2001, he sent out a press release headlined, “It’s Tax Day – Do You Know Where Your Deductions Are? For Most Americans, They’re in Your Home.”

    But by the end of 2005, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were recovering from accounting problems and re-examining costs, former executives said. The companies decided the Homeownership Alliance had outlived its usefulness, and it disappeared.

    ——–

    John Harwood contributed reporting.

Another McCainite Jumps Ship September 18, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in John McCain.
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How John McCain Lost Me

Elizabeth Drew, Politico.com

 I have been a longtime admirer of John McCain. During the 2000 Republican presidential primaries, I publicly defended McCain against the pro-Bush Republicans’ whisper campaign that he was too unstable to be president (aware though I was that he had a temper). Two years later I published a positive book about him, “Citizen McCain.”

    I admired John McCain as a man of principle and honor. He had become emblematic of someone who spoke his mind, voted his conscience, and demonstrated courage in bucking his own party and fighting for what he believed in. He gained a well-deserved reputation as a maverick. He was seen as taking principled positions on such issues as tax equity (opposing the newly elected Bush’s tax cut), fighting political corruption, and, later, taking on the Bush administration on torture. He came off as a man of decency. He took political risks.

    Having emerged, ironically, from his bitter 2000 primary fight against Bush as an immensely popular figure, he set out to be a new force in American politics. He decided to form and lead a centrist movement, believing that that was where the country was and needed leadership. He went against the grain of his party on the environment, patients’ bill of rights, and, of course, campaign finance reform.

    While McCain’s movement to the center was widely popular (if not on the right) – and he even flirted with becoming a Democrat – there’s now strong reason to question whether it was anything but a temporary, expedient tactic. (In his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For,” he wrote, revealingly, “I didn’t decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president…. In truth, I’d had the ambition for a long time.”)

    When he decided to run for president in 2008, he felt he couldn’t win without the support of the right, so he adapted.

    In retrospect, other once-hailed McCain efforts – his cultivation of the press (“my base”) and even his fight for campaign finance reform (launched in the wake of his embarrassment over the Keating Five scandal) now seem to have been simply maneuvers. The “Straight Talk Express” – a brilliant p.r. stroke in 2000 – has now been shut down.

    When the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, widely opposed by Republicans, began to seem a liability during the 2008 primaries, his reforming zeal gave way to political exigencies, and he ceased mentioning his one-time triumph. Though in 2003 he had introduced a bill to fix some other problems with the campaign finance system, in later years his name was no longer on the bill.

    When Bush, issued a “signing statement” in 2006 on McCain’s hard-fought legislation placing prohibitions on torture, saying he would interpret the measure as he chose, McCain barely uttered a peep. And then, in 2006, in one of his most disheartening acts, McCain supported a “compromise” with the administration on trials of Guantanamo detainees, yielding too much of what the administration wanted, and accepted provisions he had originally opposed on principle. Among other things, the bill sharply limited the rights of detainees in military trials, stripped habeas corpus rights from a broad swath of people “suspected” of cooperating with terrorists, and loosened restrictions on the administration’s use of torture. (The Supreme Court later ruled portions of this measure unconstitutional.)

    McCain’s caving in to this “compromise” did it for me. This was further evidence that the former free-spirited, supposedly principled, maverick was morphing into just another panderer – to Bush and the Republican Party’s conservative base.

    Other aspects of McCain, including his temperament, began to trouble me. He seemed disturbingly bellicose. He gave the Iraq war unflagging support no matter the facts. He still talks about “winning” the war, though George W. Bush gave that up some time ago. As the war became increasingly unpopular, he employed the useful technique of blaming its execution rather than recognizing the misconceptions that had led him to be one of the most enthusiastic champions of the war in the first place.

    Similarly, in making a big issue of having backed the surge (and simplifying the reasons for its apparent success), he preempts debate on the very idea of the war. He has talked (and sung) loosely about attacking Iran. More recently, he oversimplified this summer’s events in Georgia and made intemperate remarks about Russia, about which he’s been more belligerent than the administration for some time. (He has his own set of neocons.)

    There’s an argument that all this compromise wasn’t necessary: some very smart political analysts believed from the outset that McCain could win the nomination by sticking with his old self. And they still believe that McCain won the nomination not because he gave himself over to the base but as a result of a process of elimination of inferior candidates who divided up the conservative vote, as these observers had predicted. (These people insisted on anonymity because McCain is known in Republican circles to have a long memory and a vindictive streak.)

    By then I had already concluded that that there was a disturbingly erratic side of McCain’s nature. There’s a certain lack of seriousness in him. And he does not appear to be a reflective man, or very interested in domestic issues. One cannot imagine him ruminating late into the night about, say, how to educate and train Americans for the new global and technological challenges.

    McCain’s making a big issue of “earmarks” and citing entertaining examples of ridiculous-sounding ones, circumvents discussion of the larger issues of the allocation of funds in the federal budget: according to the Office of Management and Budget, earmarks represent less than one percent of federal spending.

    Now he’s back to declaring himself a maverick, but it’s not clear what that means. If he gains the presidency, is he going to rebel against the base he’s now depending on to get him elected? (Hence his selection of running mate Sarah Palin.) Campaigns matter. If he means “shaking up the system” (which is not the same thing), opposing earmarks doesn’t cut it.

    McCain’s recent conduct of his campaign – his willingness to lie repeatedly (including in his acceptance speech) and to play Russian roulette with the vice-presidency, in order to fulfill his long-held ambition – has reinforced my earlier, and growing, sense that John McCain is not a principled man.

    In fact, it’s not clear who he is.

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