Friday, February 22, 2008


OK, I don't plan on posting too much about the McCain scandal (or most others), but there was one thing that caught my eye, and K-Drum's post today made be remember it. Drum lists the ways in which McCain has been dodging the press - and otherwise keeping reporters at a safe distance - which is odd considering McCain's well-known access (and the favorable coverage it has garnered). Drum:

Look, there's no two ways about it it: this is very weird behavior. If there were really no story here, McCain wouldn't be avoiding reporters. He'd be yukking it up and insisting to a sympathetic press corps that he was the subject of a comically thin hit job from the Times. Instead he's acting almost like a caricature of a guilty man. What's going on here?
Speaking of the caricature of a guilty man, an interesting thing happened in yesterday's (or the day before?) press conference. Reporters were asking McCain a series of questions about the scandal, and McCain responded to each, albeit with a touch of stiffness. Then, a reporter asked if McCain had had any conversations with the New York Times about the story before it was published, and McCain immediately responded "no" and went on to reiterate the point.

The problem is, McCain did have a conversation with Times editor Bill Kellor and a reporter called him on it moments later. McCain then recanted, and offered a series of clumsy clarifications. What struck me, though, is that this type of mistake is often made when a person is lying about a given subject. When giving a truthful account of events, you stick to the truth and answer each question forthrightly from memory. There is no reason to hesitate, think too hard or lie. When you are concocting a story, however, the reflex is to prevaricate about every detail for fear that the truth will slip out from some unforseen crevace. Thus, even with respect to a relatively innocuous occurence (McCain's conversation with Keller), McCain's first impulse was to stick to the non-truth.

Now obviously this is not dispositive evidence, but it didn't seem like behavior indicative of candor.

[UPDATE: The tangle continues (via Matt):

Just hours after the Times' story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff--and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," the campaign said in a statement emailed to reporters.

But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. "I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the September 25, 2002 deposition obtained by Newsweek. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."
Straight talkin'!]

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