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"the latest issue to arise for the McCain campaign involving aides' ties to foreign interests"
May 15, 2008 4:14 AM   Subscribe

Unsavoury1 lobbyists running McCain's campaign.

Two aides have quit over ties with the Burmese junta.2
posted by kliuless (42 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bob Dole style, but angrier.
posted by R. Mutt at 4:41 AM on May 15, 2008


Too soon!
posted by chillmost at 4:44 AM on May 15, 2008


apparently, it goes the other way as well; republican strategists have a thing for ukraine (cf. democratic strategists for bolivia).
posted by kliuless at 4:56 AM on May 15, 2008


You mean there are savoury lobbyists? I think most of Washington is a big stinkhole containing unsavoury characters. Just that when they run for President, they and their followers are more in the limelight than the rest of them.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:12 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I believe you mean "Republican strategerieists".
posted by Flunkie at 5:20 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


McCain is Nixon without the charm, without the paranoid thoroughness it takes to be corrupt, and without the cleverness to get away with most of it.

He's not enough like Nixon and he's gonna loose like McGovern.
posted by three blind mice at 5:20 AM on May 15, 2008


McCain is Nixon without the charm, without the paranoid thoroughness it takes to be corrupt, and without the cleverness to get away with most of it.

That's a good thing, innit? It's a bit like calling an aspiring dictator "like Hitler, but without the success".
posted by WalterMitty at 5:23 AM on May 15, 2008 [2 favorites]


You mean there are savoury lobbyists?

I live around DC. I know some lobbyists. Sure, it's a profession that is particularly susceptible to the proliferation of all manner of bad karma - but there are lobbyists for all sorts of good things as well. The environment, civil liberties, both sides of the gun debate, both sides of any given pharma issue, contractors trying to do some work for NASA instead of the DOD, etc. It's kind of like writing off lawyers.

The real problem is undue influence of lobbyists on lawmakers. I see no issue with interest groups (evil or otherwise) having someone on the hill to pitch their case, as long as they aren't doing it with greased palms.
posted by phrontist at 5:28 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


three blind mice: how exactly is he like Nixon? I'd say Hillary's tactics have been more nixonesque than any this cycle, and even then it's a stretch.
posted by phrontist at 5:30 AM on May 15, 2008


It's hard to say if McCain is like Nixon, because we have no idea what McCain really believes. Even the one issue a lot of people would say he's firmest on, torture, he's pretty flipfloppy. He talks and tears up and makes a big show, but when it comes down to cases, he turns away.

McCain's core belief is that McCain should be President. Maybe that's Nixonian or maybe it's just arrogant and peevish.
posted by DU at 5:33 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


arrogant and peevish . . . remind you of anyone?
posted by garlic at 5:58 AM on May 15, 2008


You mean there are savoury lobbyists?

Well, I think there are some people up there fighting the good fight, such as the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU, etc. The problem of course is that the system is so corrupt to begin with.
posted by delmoi at 6:11 AM on May 15, 2008


The real problem is undue influence of lobbyists on lawmakers.

The real problem is that lawmakers have too much power to offer lobbyists.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:14 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


The real problem is that lawmakers have too much power to offer lobbyists.

This doesn't make any sense? How could we remove power from lawmakers? Who would we give it too? Power can't simply be dissipated into thin air, it has to go somewhere.
posted by delmoi at 6:19 AM on May 15, 2008


how exactly is he like Nixon?

DU nailed it best when he wrote "McCain's core belief is that McCain should be President. Maybe that's Nixonian or maybe it's just arrogant and peevish."

Nixon pandered to his opponents, angered his base (such as when he created the EPA) and was able to manage his house of political cards so well that he crushed McGovern in 1972.

I don't see McCain's carpentry skills as comparable to Nixon's, but he's forced himself to live in the same house.
posted by three blind mice at 6:19 AM on May 15, 2008


How could we remove power from lawmakers?

Perhaps by giving them less money and less authority to rule over certain aspects of our lives (pick your favorites)?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:23 AM on May 15, 2008


> McCain is Nixon without the charm

Nixon had charm? I can't tell if you're being sarcastic or mocking the current state of American politics, to be so nostalgic about Richard Nixon as to have false memories about his charm.

Richard Nixon's signature persona over the course of his political career was his lack of charm. He lost a presidential election because of his lack of charm. If it wasn't for the cold war he would have been a footnote to history.

He eventually became president because of the cold-war charmlessness gap. People voted for him because the United State kept electing leaders ranging from amiable to downright charismatic while the Soviet Union had marked a commanding lead, first with Khrushchev and then Brezhnev. The United States could never overcome it, but without Nixon there would have been no detente.
posted by ardgedee at 6:29 AM on May 15, 2008


Power can't simply be dissipated into thin air, it has to go somewhere.

It can be devolved downwards to communities. Instead of being arrogated to the centre it can be transferred local government. Frankly the USA does a far better job of this due to its Federal nature than the UK does which is a much more centralised state.
posted by dmt at 7:32 AM on May 15, 2008


How could we remove power from lawmakers?

This was Thatcher's preoccupation. She answered by suggesting the 'rolling back the frontiers of the state' by means of privatisation and other measures. Simon Jenkins suggests that her rule had precisely the opposite effect but that was what she set out to do.
posted by dmt at 7:36 AM on May 15, 2008


> Nixon had charm?

Sure he did. It was a quiet and often diabolical charm, but charm all the same. He was convinced -- partially through his Quaker upbringing -- that he was a single bright light, shining for the concerns of the silent majority and ever threatened by enemies seen and unseen. Even before he was President, his tenacious pursuit of Alger Hiss was like the quest of some kind of conservative knight errant. You can't have that kind of drive and lack personality, even if that personality is incredibly toxic.

(You also don't get elected or re-elected without some modicum of charm.)

And failing that, he had Henry Kissinger at his side, a man who had charm by the steel-clad caseload.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:37 AM on May 15, 2008


It can be devolved downwards to communities. Instead of being arrogated to the centre it can be transferred local government.

Sitting through one County Council meeting in South Carolina will forever cure you of thinking that this is a good idea.
posted by ND¢ at 7:43 AM on May 15, 2008


Sitting through one County Council meeting in South Carolina will forever cure you of thinking that this is a good idea.

Agreed. But sitting through a session of the Joint Committee on Tax Law Rewrite Bills shows that centralised power can be just a stultifying : )
posted by dmt at 7:49 AM on May 15, 2008


This is news? Yo, Diogenes. Wake me when you find a savory lobbyist.

And I'll fire up the BBQ. Rare birds are good eating.
posted by loquacious at 7:50 AM on May 15, 2008


A pity bitterness is such an unpopular flavour; there's plenty of that on Capitol Hill. (Or, depending on who you ask, in rural America.)
posted by WalterMitty at 7:59 AM on May 15, 2008


I'll take stultifying over terrifying any day of the week. I would not trust the majority of local lawmakers to wash my car, much less make decisions that have a real impact on my life. Those in the upper echelons of power may be just as corrupt, but at least they are a little smarter. Well most of them.
posted by ND¢ at 8:05 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Power can't simply be dissipated into thin air, it has to go somewhere.

It definitely can be so dissipated: people can pressure their congresspeople or vote in new ones specifically to rein in what sort of private behavior government can reach. The reason it won't happen is because every group in this country has some stupid little thing they feel compelled to control about other people. Don't like pot? Regulate. Don't like gays? Regulate. Undies in a bunch over foie gras? Regulate. We have exactly the sort of overreaching all-powerful government at every level we deserve for trying to control every citizen but ourselves. And it is flatly unconstitutional (on the national level) and a damn shame.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:23 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


I was forced to sit and watch McCain on Regis Philbin at a doctors' office yesterday. He was trying to explain how wonderful his gas tax holiday was. Man, did he come across as oily and patronizing. He's not a very good liar.
posted by fungible at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2008


You mean there are savoury lobbyists?

You can do wonders with the right marinade.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:06 AM on May 15, 2008


Lobbyists are the worm in our apple. If you take nearly any problem in our country, and dig down far enough, you will see a lobbyist attached to it somewhere. I don't doubt that there was a point in the distant past when they served a useful function, but now they are a cancer eating away at us.

I don't see that there is any good way of getting rid of them, but we should seriously reform our system to limit their ability to influence using money or other bribes.
posted by quin at 9:42 AM on May 15, 2008


While I have little to offer on the matter of McCain's ties to lobbyists beyond the obvious, let me just say that Obsidian Wings is my favorite political blog and I'm glad to see it linked from the front page.
posted by Kattullus at 10:20 AM on May 15, 2008


I don't doubt that there was a point in the distant past when they served a useful function, but now they are a cancer eating away at us.

While lobbying in one form or another has always been a part of the process, mercenary lobbying firms--that is, professional lobbyists willing to lobby on behalf of any paying client--are a relatively new development I think. I like to compare them to the Payola industry that took over the music business back in the 70s: Pay them enough, and your bill will get consideration.

Just as in the days of the Payola scandal, there's a legitimate need being fulfilled by the lobbyists, to a point. That need is for some way to manage the sheer volume of political interests--from big businesses to issue groups--who'd like to be able to meaningfully participate on some level in the legislative process.

To me, the rapid expansion of lobbying and the influence of mercenary lobbyists in our times strongly suggests a breakdown in the mechanisms of our system of participatory democracy. It's an obvious but not trivial point: People are willing to pay for access to the legislative process because effective access is no longer available through the normal constitutionally established legislative mechanisms. The underlying problem is that the lobbying industry is an ad hoc stop-gap solution to the problem of our government's increasing, systematic unresponsiveness to the public interest.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:26 AM on May 15, 2008


arrogant and peevish . . . remind you of anyone?
posted by garlic at 5:58 AM on May 15 [+] [!]


Yeah, everyone.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:50 AM on May 15, 2008


I'll take stultifying over terrifying any day of the week. I would not trust the majority of local lawmakers to wash my car, much less make decisions that have a real impact on my life.

I take your point. Nevertheless (and gosh and isn't that a weasel word for those looking for a row?) if you look at those wielding power at the centre, they can be cut from just as poor cloth. I mean, for goodness sake, Britain has a former postman as the Secretary of State for Health. As it happens, he's a superb politician and a highly effective Minister but rule by the elite we do not have. And a good thing too. That's what the Russians have and it's not really working out for them.

No doubt my American brethren can point to similar examples of legislators of unlikely origin within the US policy-making infrastructure. The fact is that the fuck ups of central government merely have better PR. But, boy, what a bigger canvas they are painted on, no? I give you Iraq's weapons of mass destruction by way of example. Yes, your local government is crap, but at least it hasn't embroiled you in a $3tn, unwinnnable, illegal war.

Lobbyists are the worm in our apple. If you take nearly any problem in our country, and dig down far enough, you will see a lobbyist attached to it somewhere. I don't doubt that there was a point in the distant past when they served a useful function, but now they are a cancer eating away at us.

This is hysterical hyperbole. You could say the same of law, advertising, banking, auditing, management consulting and pretty much any of the professions.

Given the nature of representative democracy, lobbying is a necessary evil. People get votes but economic entities don't. Accordingly these outfits need a way of communicating their needs to law makers. The fact that, apparently, anecdotally, lobbyists have captured the US legislative process is a regulatory rather than systemic failure. Better regulation, rather than opprobrium is the answer.
posted by dmt at 12:15 PM on May 15, 2008


I agree with you regarding all of the harm that has been done by those in charge at the federal level. Nevertheless, I submit to you that if a random county council, small town city council or school board were to have the same power, then we would have nuked Iran, China and France, declared Christianity to be our official religion and built a giant moat between the U.S. and Mexico. The only reason that those in local government do less harm is because they have less power.
posted by ND¢ at 12:37 PM on May 15, 2008


but rule by the elite we do not have. And a good thing too.

Well, I'd love it if that were a permanent state of affairs we could just take for granted , but increasingly it looks like that's exactly what we do have. Political scientist Larry Bartel's research , among others, suggests we are starting to look more and more like an oligarchy, with popular opinion and the public interest playing a measurably diminishing role in the political process. I think this is at least partly attributable to the increasing reliance on the professional lobbying industry, though of course I don't think it's intentional.

It just makes sense that, when access to the political process becomes a marketable commodity bought and sold on an open market, and a certain segment of the population is both more able to afford that access, and by virtue of its greater access, better able to increase its wealth (thereby gaining even more access pricing access to the process even further out of reach of those who couldn't afford it before).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:41 PM on May 15, 2008


D'oh. Here's the rest of what I meant to say:

"It just makes sense that... [this scenario] would end up concentrating more and more influence over the political process in fewer and fewer hands."
posted by saulgoodman at 12:45 PM on May 15, 2008


I agree with you regarding all of the harm that has been done by those in charge at the federal level. [continues]

I don't intend to argue with you, mainly because I agree with you about the largely poor quality of local government, both here and apparently in the US. I do suggest however that where meaningful power is devolved to local communities that large scale legislative failures would not necessarily be sine qua non because accountability would follow that devolution. With greater power comes greater accountability.

Were (for the sake of an argument) Mississippi to declare itself a Christian entity those who endorsed that position would graduate towards that locus, those who didn't, away. And, ahead of time, I fully accept that (labour market) mobility tends to be a privilege of the better off so this would be, at best, a flawed process. Perhaps though, a better one than a situation in which insidious, partisan Christian bias flows from the centre.

I accept your point that defence is a special case; this is what Nozick was arguing for when he stated that it (and certain other civic goods) were the only justifiable rationale for central power. As far as I know, that contention hasn't been convincingly rebutted in political science theory so I guess, until one of us has a better idea, that we're stuck with at least some form of centralised power.

Larry Bartel's research , among others, suggests we are starting to look more and more like an oligarchy, with popular opinion and the public interest playing a measurably diminishing role in the political process. I think this is at least partly attributable to the increasing reliance on the professional lobbying industry, though of course I don't think it's intentional.

Agreed that ossification of political power is a huge problem. In my view however, I'd lay this blame at the feet of Rupert Murdoch and his ilk before Wexler Walker. That's just a personal view. Nick Davies has a much more informed view which suggests that the media is its own worst enemy even before a lobbyist sticks their oar in.

[A]ccess to the political process becomes a marketable commodity bought and sold on an open market, and a certain segment of the population is both more able to afford that access

Again, good point. It wasn't always thus, however. Rewind to the 30s or the 50s and organised labour ensured that the political views of the latterly disenfranchised were represented at the top table. Here in Britain, the sway of the trade unions was dramatically smashed by Thatcher in the 1980s, I don't see a similar sea change in recent US history. Perhaps the decline in political influence of the CIO/teamsters is more a cyclical phenomenon on your side of the pond?
posted by dmt at 2:24 PM on May 15, 2008


Were (for the sake of an argument) Mississippi to declare itself a Christian entity those who endorsed that position would graduate towards that locus, those who didn't, away.

Okay, I am probably talking to myself here, but I wanted to address this. I think that we may be having a cultural misunderstanding. See, I don't believe that the United States of America is really a country. We are a conglomeration of states under a federal government. Most Americans (though not the type of Americans that read Metafilter) are citizens of their state first, and their country second (similar to the way that you probably consider yourself English before you consider yourself European) even if that is not a fact that is often mentioned. That is becoming less so as people are becoming less rooted to their ancestral homes, but it is still a reality for a large portion of Americans. So, my parents are South Carolinians, my grand-parents are South Carolinians, my great-grandparents were South Carolinians and so forth. When Sherman burned down half of this state, there were ¢'s here to see it. So, if South Carolina were to become free of the constitutional limitations on its power and more authority devolved to the local level and be allowed to declare itself a Christian state where women were not allowed to work and abortion, divorce and homosexuality were outlawed, I would leave it, but it would not be an easy thing for me. I am a South Carolinian the same way that I am a Methodist. I could no more wake up one day and say that I am a Californian than I could wake up and declare myself a Buddhist. I may go to a Buddhist church, but I would still be a Methodist in a Buddhist church, just as if I moved to California I would still be a South Carolinian, just a South Carolinian living in California. For some people, this is not true (they can both change religions and move from their homes). For me it is.

Therefore, I don't want South Carolina to have any more power than it already does. People wiser than us set up a system of government where the popular sentiments of the mob are tempered by the cooler heads of the elite. This is a good thing. The mob is made up of people who tend to be kind and charitable and wise when it comes to their sphere, but when presented with a bigger picture, they are too ignorant and inexperienced to be as kind and charitable and wise as they are in their lives. I love my grandmother, and in the life that she leads she does the right thing 99% of the time, but I wouldn't want my grandmother to be making decisions that would affect large amounts of people, because she does not have the education and experience to do that. My grandmother is like South Carolina. Well, just not in the sense that South Carolina does the right thing 99% of the time. So, you look around you at the people that are kind to each other and help each other and bake pies and pay their taxes and they seem great, but these same people, were they to be made responsible for things that are beyond their ken, would put us back on the gold standard and remove Fluoride from our drinking water and do all kind of other crazy things.

So, I disagree that more local control is a good thing, even if one could move from one area to the other. I believe that people belong to the place they are from, and rather than allowing the place they are from be itself completely, that the place they are from should be itself, but with limitations placed on it that protect its inhabitants from the excesses that can arise from unfettered power. Local governments should do what they can, but we need the federal government to keep us in line. Now, this system is by no means perfect, because while the founders envisioned the federal government as being made up of the most reasoned and sober of the nation's citizens, sometimes we elect morons. That is definitely a flaw in the system, but hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and do better in the future.
posted by ND¢ at 9:57 AM on May 16, 2008


Cindy McCain sells Sudan investments; renews debate on tax returns
posted by homunculus at 12:18 PM on May 16, 2008


McCain Lies Away The Iran-Contra Scandal
posted by homunculus at 10:36 AM on May 17, 2008


In McCain’s Court: "McCain plans to continue and perhaps even accelerate, George W. Bush’s conservative counter-revolution at the Supreme Court."
posted by homunculus at 2:54 PM on May 19, 2008


McCain's scary economic advisor: Not only is former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm a shill for special interests, his deregulation policies helped spur the mortgage crisis, among other financial disasters.
posted by homunculus at 9:46 PM on May 29, 2008


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