Sunday, August 22, 2010

Former Arizona Republic editor and publisher speaks out about the real John McCain

Some excerpts from the article -

The Washington media love him.
Meet the real John McCain.

Those who've known John McCain since he began his Arizona political career two decades ago made two mistakes. First, we underestimated the Washington media's gullibility for a political schmooze job. Second, we underestimated McCain's mastery in reincarnating himself as a lovable maverick glowing with political virtue and amiable charm while camouflaging his bullyboy and deceitful ways.

He cannot endure criticism. He threatens. He controls by fear. He's consumed with self-importance. He shifts blame. McCain's thin skin and demand to have it his way have been obvious since infancy, when he held his breath until he was unconscious, and later in Washington, where he has resorted to pushing and shoving colleagues when irritated.

McCain is a man obsessed with political ambitions but plagued by self-destructive petty impulses. It was vintage McCain who exploded when the Arizona Republic questioned whether the man dubbed "Senator Hothead" in Washington is fit to be entrusted with presidential powers. Instead of conceding what's common knowledge about his volcanic personality, McCain exploded in denial, blaming a newspaper vendetta and George W. Bush for "orchestrating" the criticism. When his claims drew snickers, McCain shifted to another explanation: He explodes when he sees "injustice."

The new journalism of dwelling on personalities rather than tedious investigative digging gives McCain a free ride from the national media.

ABC's Sam Donaldson came close to giving millions of viewers a clearer picture in a taped interview with Silverman for 20/20. But the segment was canceled the night before airing, fueling speculation that McCain's oversight of broadcasters as Senate Commerce Committee chairman makes the networks wary of offending him. Several years ago, when NBC refused to support his TV-rating system, McCain wrote a letter to NBC President Robert Wright, threatening to ask the FCC to review licenses of the network's locally owned stations.

I'm among the swelling ranks of onetime McCain acquaintances ostracized for not being slavishly loyal. After McCain settled in Arizona with his young second wife, a millionaire, he asked me at dinner for help with a political career. As editorial page editor (and later publisher) of the Arizona Republic, I declined to be his political coach. However, we socialized, including dinners at his home. We even discussed writing a book. The relationship ended, however, when our newspaper exposed McCain as a liar who used an underhanded political trick.

McCain indulges in hypocrisy with a flair. He attacks tobacco but ignores alcohol. Why? His wife's millions flow from the family beer and wine distributorship, Arizona's largest.

The affable, candid, gregarious candidate, who mingles with reporters and yuks it up in the back of the bus, is no friend of free speech, and merely tolerates and uses the press as part of his political strategy. In Arizona, McCain tries to subdue reporters by threatening to have them fired when he's displeased with their pieces. Upset about critical reporting in the Phoenix New Times by Amy Silverman, McCain complained to her father, Richard, general manager of the Salt River Project, an Arizona hydroelectric utility. McCain's intent seemed clear: muscling the federally chartered SRP in hopes Silverman would pressure his daughter to back off.

McCain promised Arizona voters, "I've never tried to exploit my Vietnam service to my country because it would be totally inappropriate." But his presidential campaign is festooned with reminders of his POW years, from campaign videos to speeches to best-selling books, trying to capture the veterans vote.

Even as he moralizes about corrupt corporate money, McCain rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars from Washington lobbyists and asks corporations for use of their jets for campaigning. Last year, the Washington Post documented thousands of dollars of donations to McCain's political war chest from K Street lobbyists who do business before the Senate Commerce Committee. McCain himself has acknowledged that he intervenes before regulatory agencies with letters on behalf of campaign donors, but claims he's merely performing a "constituent service"--the same explanation he used when initially defending himself in the Keating Five scandal. As a peevish lobbyist told Newsweek: "He sees no connection between twisting our arms for money and then talking about how corrupt the system is."

The John McCain glamorized by the national media is a total stranger to Arizonans who are painfully familiar with a far coarser and more foreboding man.

Pat Murphy is the former editor and publisher of the Arizona Republic. He lives in Ketchum, Idaho.

No comments: