If McCain Isn’t Toast, Is He Getting Toasty?

UPDATED BELOW

There are otherwise rational people who have said, only half in jest, that the penultimate play of the Giants’ final drive in Superbowl XLII — Eli Manning spinning away from a seemingly certain sack, lofting the ball to a well-covered David Tyree, who catches it on his helmet, and instead of the ball bouncing away as physics says it should, it moves firmly into Tyree’s hands as he crashes to the turf — had to be divine (or infernal) intervention.

American politics is building an eerie parallel in the political fortunes of Barack Obama, don’t you think?

2004: Obama runs in a primary against Blair Hull, who drops out after allegations of domestic abuse emerge. He goes into the general election against Jack Ryan, who drops out after allegations of sexual impropriety erupt. Take nothing away from Barack; he was leading Ryan anyway, and has proven himself a formidable campaigner. But a little oomph from above (or below), metaphorical or otherwise, keeps the wind at one’s back, for sure.

Fast forwarding to yesterday: what appeared to be a harmless flash, flashed. A potentially damaging story, a lengthy press conference denying the story, an MSM shaking its heads at the whole thing because the New York Times did not have a single attributed source for its story suggesting that John McCain had been less than saintly in his relationship with at least one lobbyist. End of story. Not.

It might not be over yet. Sometimes the snake is under the log under the one you just picked up. Newsweek has today’s log for the fire:

Just hours after the Times’s 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 e-mailed 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 Sept. 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.”

…The deposition that McCain gave came in the course of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of his landmark campaign finance reform law, known as McCain-Feingold. The suit sheds no new light on the nature of the senator’s dealings with [lobbyist and center of the NY Times story Vicki] Iseman, but it does include a lengthy discussion of his dealings with the company that hired her, including some statements by the senator that could raise additional questions for his campaign.

I especially like this bit:

Asked at one point if Paxson’s lobbyist (Abrams never mentions Iseman’s name) had accompanied him on any of the trips he took aboard the Paxson corporate jet, McCain responded, “I do not recall.” (McCain’s campaign confirmed this week that Iseman did fly on one trip returning to Washington from a campaign fund-raiser in Florida.)

At another point Abrams asked McCain if, “looking back on the events with Mr. Paxson, the contributions, the jets, everything you and I have just talked about, do you believe that it would have been justified for a member of the public to say there is at least an appearance of corruption here?”

“Absolutely,” McCain replied. “And when I took a thousand dollars or any other hard-money contribution from anybody who does business before the Congress of the United States, then that allegation is justified as well. Because the taint affects all of us.” Elsewhere McCain said about his dealings with Paxson, “As I said before, I believe that there could possibly be an appearance of corruption because this system has tainted all of us.”

Surely the McCain campaign is right on top of this:

“We do not think there is a contradiction here,” campaign spokeswoman Ann Begeman e-mailed NEWSWEEK after being asked about the senator’s sworn testimony five and a half years ago. “We do not have the transcript you excerpted and do not know the exact questions Senator McCain was asked, but it appears that Senator McCain, when speaking of being contacted by Paxson, was speaking in shorthand of his staff being contacted by representatives of Paxson. Senator McCain does not recall being asked directly by Paxson or any representative of him or by Alcalde & Fay to contact the FCC regarding the Pittsburgh license transaction.

Possible translation: methinks we may be toast.

Memo to RNC: If this does unravel for your guy, there’s always Alan Keyes. He has experience running against Obama.

UPDATE: It keeps getting better. From TPM:

Top McCain Adviser Says He Does Much Of His Lobbying From Aboard Straight Talk Express!

This is pretty great. Today’s Washington Post piece all about the fact that John McCain is surrounded by lobbyists on his campaign has gotten lots of attention today. It’s key context for understanding the big Times story yesterday about his allegedly improper relationship with that female lobbyist, as well as his constant railing against lobbyists and “special interests.”

But the piece has a lovely and very revealing little nugget buried in it that has passed unnoticed. It turns out that one of McCain’s top advisers, lobbyist Charlie Black, does lots of his lobbying from the Straight Talk Express. From aboard the bus itself…

Of all the lobbyists involved in the McCain campaign, the most prominent is Black…even as Black provides a private voice and a public face for McCain, he also leads his lobbying firm, which offers corporate interests and foreign governments the promise of access to the most powerful lawmakers. Some of those companies have interests before the Senate and, in particular, the Commerce Committee, of which McCain is a member. Black said he does a lot of his work by telephone from McCain’s Straight Talk Express bus.

The snark fails…

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