by Max Brantley
Don't you think Mike Huckabee had to know the panty posse was hard at work on John McCain? Has the Huckabee miracle occurred? The cable TV shouters are going bats***. "You just never know when something is going to happen to alter the dynamics of the race," said Huckabee, according to an MSNBC reporter.
WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, in his offices and aboard a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s clients, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40 (pictured), both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.
It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.
But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.
My initial thoughts: This is 11th-hour garbage. (And Labaton's byline makes it automatically suspect.) But .... In a curious way, it's good. Mike Huckabee is suddenly a very real contender for president of these United States. This raises the likelihood that some stories I know to be in the works will see the light of day.
I have to think, combining this with the growing examination of Obama's thin record, stagecraft and sleazy allies (Rezko), is there a hint of hope here for Clinton cultists? You have a lovestruck, marginally stable geriatric case and a Bible-thumping flipflopper on the Republican side. An untested poser and a not-particularly-warm, but smart and battle-tested political vet on the Democratic side. Who would you pick?
PS -- The more I think about this story, the more it ticks me off. It's innuendo, period. Throw out the personal relationship and focus on the business deals and then you have a perfectly acceptable story about McCain preaching one thing and doing another (an old story). When they tell you this story isn't about the sex .... it's about the sex. Which isn't near proved, by the way.