McCains? We don’t need no stinkin’ McCains

Tim Paluch

After Sen. Jim Jeffords bolted from the Republican party to become an independent (imagine that, a politician with his own set of values), the frenzied national media immediately started floating another name around as a possible party defector – John McCain.

Now McCain would never do such a thing, would he? He already told the media he had no intentions of leaving the Republican party; he’s got more integrity than that.

After all, this is John McCain the perennial underdog; John McCain the war hero; John McCain the populist out there fighting special interests for us little guys, right?

Yea, and if you believe that, I’ve got some oceanfront property right here in Iowa I’m looking to sell.

John McCain is nothing more than a creation of a salivating national news media, who are always on the lookout for a Republican who’s not afraid to put in a bad word about a fellow Republican. After all, that’s front page news.

Mildly conservative Democrats are a dime a dozen. Just go south for the John Breauxs of Congress. Moderate Republicans, on the other hand, immediately become national news icons, and John McCain is no different.

McCain is probably best known as the co-author of the renowned McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, which has cemented his stature as the one man capable of taking special interest money out of Washington politics.

So the question is, has Sen. McCain always been this reckless idealist, this thorn in the side of big business corruption? Or was he just your average politician, willing to take money from anyone who can sign a check?

Let’s take a look at what’s behind door number two.

McCain may try to squeeze by with his poor-boy appeal, but he has been involved in numerous possible quid pro quo scandals in his career. Yet the national news media has consistently given him a free pass, not wanting to tarnish his self-appointed “voice of the people” image.

McCain was a member of the “Keating Five,” a term synonymous with political corruption.

McCain was investigated by the Senate Select Committee on Ethics in 1991 regarding his acceptance of favors from the financially troubled Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and its owner, Charles Keating.

The question was whether or not McCain and four other senators used their positions to persuade the Federal Home Loan Board to ease up on Keating.

In its final report from Nov. 20, 1991, the committee concluded that Keating and his associates contributed $56,000 for McCain’s two House races in 1982 and 1984, and $54,000 for his 1986 Senate race. It also said Keating provided McCain and his family his corporate plane, plus his house in the Bahamas to vacation at. It went on to say that from 1984 to 1987, McCain took actions on Keating’s behalf or at his request.

The committee concluded that, “given the personal benefits and campaign contributions he had received from Mr. Keating, Senator McCain exercised poor judgment in intervening with the regulators.” Yet, the committee said McCain’s actions weren’t quite improper enough to require institutional action against him.

A decade later, McCain is the only member of the “Keating Five” to remain in office.

Nowadays, McCain embarks on the “Straight Talk Express,” continuing his lone crusade against the corruption of special interests. But he still is the same ol’ McCain.

“Campaigns and Elections,” a trade publication for political pundits, named him “Political Hypocrite of 1998.” Not exactly a purple heart, but a worthy title none the less.

McCain raised $4.4 million in his Senate reelection bid in 1998, far exceeding the amount allotted under his reform bill. Co-author Russ Feingold kept to the guidelines he wrote, almost losing his seat in the process.

Feingold stuck by them because he believed in them; McCain didn’t believe them in the first place.

There are others.

The Phoenix New Times reviewed Senator McCain’s Senate and presidential contributions, and came to the conclusion that special interests with business before the Senate Commerce Committee (which he chaired) gave some hefty amounts of cash during those times. McCain had introduced legislation that would have opened the long-distance telephone market to Ameritech Corp., just about the time he received a fat check.

People who testified before the Commerce Committee between January 1997 and November 1999 donated at least $797,917 to McCain. They made these contributions either personally or through the political action committees of their employers.

So, as you can see, John McCain is not the man he says he is, or the man the media makes him out to be.

You can’t trust a thing McCain does, partly because you won’t know if he’s trying to get things done for the good of America, or if he’s trying to do what’s necessary to get himself elected.

After his involvement in the Lincoln Savings and Loan “scandal,” McCain switched over to focus on foreign affairs, something he could gain notoriety with as a war veteran.

There he remained, gaining national acclaim, until the time came when a different prize was within McCain’s sights – the president of the United States of America. Immediately, McCain became a moderate, took campaign finance reform under his wing, and glided off into political stardom.

McCain is what he is because the media likes him that way.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf. So stay where you are Sen. McCain; there’s no room for you elsewhere.

Tim Paluch is a junior in journalism and mass communication from Orland Park, Ill. He is opinion editor of the Daily.