Sunday, February 24, 2008

McCain's non-scandalous scandal

The John McCain lobbyist scandal seems to be dying down in light of the New York Times' failure to produce anything other than rumors of the appearance of impropriety combined with McCain's sharp denial of any romantic involvement or betrayal of the public trust.

Frankly, I think the story's somewhat foolish original intention was not to accuse McCain of illegal or immoral activity, rather to suggest that even McCain is not immune to the lure of the huge gray areas in political ethics. These are challenges McCain has talked about times both in regard to his involvement in the Keating S&L scandal and challenges with our process in general.

McCain's case is interesting because I'd suggest it is pretty clear what happened, but media speculation and frenzy simply cannot handle middle ground very well:

McCain had a friendship with lobby girl which was flirtatious but probably not scandalous - I doubt they slept together and may never have had any romance, though I'm guessing he technically lied saying "no romantic involvement".

Like other Senators, McCain participated in our crappy lobby system in legal ways.

Vicki Iseman's influence over McCain him was a notch above the normal due to the flirtatious and/or romantic overtones, but she did not *directly* ask for favors and he did not *directly* offer them. McCain is a man of honor and it would have been totally out of character for him to act otherwise.

Isemant did get more attention than average, but nothing that would approach illegal preferential treatment or breach any reasonable ethical standards other than the one that suggests our current and past lobbying systems are poor ways to do the people's business.

Note that decisions and clients are on the record, so where is the record of corruption here?

Appearance of impropriety here? Sure, but that's not enough.

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