September 24, 2008

They loves them some lobbyists, but not freedom of the press

McCain's campaign manager up to his very well paid neck in lobbying for Freddie Mac.

Since 2006, the federally sponsored mortgage giant Freddie Mac has paid at least $345,000 to the lobbying and consulting firm of John McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement.

Freddie Mac had previously paid an advocacy group run by Davis, called the Homeownership Alliance, $30,000 a month until the end of 2005, when that group was dissolved. That relationship was the subject of a New York Times story Monday, which drew angry denunciations from the McCain campaign. McCain and his aides have vehemently objected to suggestions that Davis has ties to Freddie Mac—an especially sensitive issue given that the Republican presidential candidate has blamed "the lobbyists, politicians and bureaucrats" for the mortgage crisis that recently prompted the Bush administration to take over both Freddie Mac and its companion, Fannie Mae, and put them under federal conservatorship.

But 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].

It's clear that Davis severed ties to his direct lobbying for Freddie Mac, but then continued to accept $15,000 a month UP UNTIL LAST MONTH, for crying out loud, from Freddie Mac for doing essentially nothing at all, other than providing access to the guy who's now out there ranting about how evil D.C. lobbyists have caused this near depression.

Trouble with that is, his own damn campaign manager was one of them.

And when it was initially reported by the NYT that Davis's firm had collected hundreds of thousands from Freddie Mac for lobbying, McCain's chief spokesman went out of his mind and threw a tantrum, saying,

"But whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Gov. Palin and excuses Sen. Obama. There is no public vetting... there is no level of outrage directed at his deceitful ads... This is an organization that is completely and totally 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate.... Everything that is read in the New York Times should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective. It is an organization that has made a decision to cast aside its journalistic integrity and advocate for the defeat of one candidate and the election of another."

Then it comes out that it's even worse than was reported.

When you have to resort to overblown crazy accusations against the press, for the offense of reporting the truth, then you're in trouble.

And when half of your ticket embarks on an excellent adventure in New York, sort of a field trip, to meet the first foreign heads of state she's ever met, trying to give Palin some foreign policy "insta-cred" and generate some neat-o pictures of her RIGHT THERE IN THE SAME ROOM AS FOREIGN LOOKING GUYS, and they want to ban access to reporters to actually report, or the (horrors) questions they might ask, then you're in trouble.

There are two things to bear in mind here.

First, these are photo sessions... photo ops, not press conferences. The press is usually allowed to pile in and do their thing for maybe 5 minutes, then they're shooed out. (In this case, it was more like 30 seconds.) It's a very controlled deal and Presidents and candidates usually like them because they have someone else there to kind of deflect things off and the questions are usually easy and there are only a couple at most.

A press pool of some sort have ALWAYS been allowed at these sorts of photo ops. The State Dept. DEMANDS that they be allowed when the Sec. of State meets with repressive leaders in places like Syria or China which don't allow the press to witness such meetings.

Yet, after frothing at the mouth in indignation that anyone would dare even ask whether Palin could manage to run for vice president while properly raising 5 kids including a handicapped infant, suggesting that such a thing was insulting and misogynistic, they now are so absolutely TERRIFIED of her shallowness and lack of knowledge that they won't even allow the poor woman to speak unless it's in front of a friendly crowd and she stays on script.

Boy, they sure have faith in the abilities of a woman to be just as smart and tough and skilled as a man. They're such ardent feminists that they pick an attractive female, ("The hottest governor from the coldest state." campaign crap flew off the shelves.) then want the public to only see pictures of her and hear tales of how tough and smart she is and her family and handicapped infant and to listen to her recite repeated lies in front of adoring crowds in her God-awful screeching voice (which always reminds me of the bird screech that opened the intro to the show "Northern Exposure". Cicily might as well be Wasilla.)

The round of brief meaningless meetings in New York were really helpful and make me at least feel much more secure in Palin's knowledge and preparedness in foreign affairs.

When the press went into revolt at the brazen attempts to limit coverage, threatening to not cover the stunt at all, the McCain camp backed down, saying it was a "misunderstanding" and allowed the three or four person press pool access.

So the press (our representatives) were allowed to show about 30 seconds of each meeting. Pretty impressive, eh? What did we learn?

Palin spent her meeting with the leader of Afghanistan talking about his children. She asked what his son's name was. He told her.

She talked to the leader of Columbia briefly, but no one could hear what they were talking about over the snapping of cameras.

She met with Henry Kissinger, which should pretty much alarm anyone with a knowledge of history.

During the few seconds the press were allowed into the room, Kissinger said that he was going to give conservative French president Nicolas Sarkozy credit for brokering the Georgia-Russia ceasefire in a speech he was to give.

"Good, good," Palin replied. "And you'll give me more insight on that, also, huh? Good."

Palin answered one question while leaving Henry Kissinger's office after their meeting. "It was great", Palin said when asked how it went.

So there you go. What more could you want? Try to say she's unqualified NOW.

I'm aware that most people aren't really crazy about the press. But they ARE our only means of knowing and seeing and finding out what's going on with the people who purport to run our country or who aspire to it.

And I find this over-the-top attempt by the McCain campaign to keep Palin in a weird sort of bubble, all the while trying to vilify the press for attempting to do their job, really disgusting and a bit disturbing.

It's really not much of a leap to some sort of "Brave New World" scenario where the candidates only appear on video prepared by the campaign.

They're literally refusing to allow Palin to answer, or even be exposed to, any questions from the press.

She did do the Charlie Gibson interview, which was an actual interview. She sucked. Bad. (In what respect, Charlie?)

Then she did a late night infomercial type of interview with Sean "Mutton head" Hannity.

God, was that a gem. With Hannity trying to act like Walter Cronkite, in a setting that looked like they were in the White House. It was like Hannity was a kid playing at being an actual reporter. Egads. He tossed her every softball imaginable, and I'm only surprised he didn't ask, "Will you be a great vice president, or the greatest vice president in history?"

Other than that, they've scrupulously avoided exposing her to anything which would give the slightest glimpse into what she believes, how bright she is, or the depth (or lack of) of her knowledge about critical issues confronting the country.

When you find yourself with nothing left to do but try to lash out at the press because they actually are trying to figure out who the hell you picked to be a heart-beat away from the presidency, or daring to report the truth about the thick and numerous ties between the several lobbyists running the McCain campaign and the very firms and banks that are at the heart of the worst economic crisis for generations,
you've got problems.

That's not good.


At 9/24/2008 10:36 AM, Anonymous presswatcher said...

Although the press sometimes makes itself an easy target with shoddy or overaggressive efforts, I agree with you: Attacking the press to deflect an interested public from the truth is a huge warning sign.

You noticed, of course, that there isn't a single ounce of actual denial in Davis' statement about the NYT.

Sadly, the reality is that over time both major parties have used the bash-the-press deflection to cover their butts.


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