McCain caught in staff trouble

Last week, top McCain staffers -- the regional campaign manager for the mid-Atlantic states and the CEO of the September convention -- were forced to resign from the campaign after ties between their lobbying group and Myanmar's government were revealed. That has prompted the campaign to engage in a purge of any staffer that might have unsavory lobbying connection. On May 15th, everyone on staff was sent a questionnaire asking them to report any lobbying activity, conflict of interest.

It is puzzling why McCain did not engage in this re-vetting process as soon as he became the presumptive nominee back in February. No one was paying attention to him back then, and he could have fired anyone he had wanted with minimal attention. Now, McCain is coming back in the public view and his efforts are being undermined by constant news of staffers being forced to resign over the past week. Today, a fifth aide left the campaign, and a high-profile one too: Tom Loeffler, the national finance co-chair whose friendship with McCain dates way back and who was involved in the 2000 campaign. This is clearly a very serious blow to McCain's candidacy.

Now, the campaign is dealing with criticism over the involvement of Charlie Black, one of McCain's top advisers but one who has lobbied for foreign governments. Black gave up his lobbying practice but liberal groups are now pressuring the campaign to dump Black because of his ties with "some of the world's worst tyrants." MoveOn has produced a brutal ad to keep up the pressure, though the McCain campaign will probably not yield on this one, at least as long as there are no new revelations about Black.

The recent but constant drumbeat surrounding McCain's staffers could prove damaging for the Republican candidate. McCain's ethics lie at the core of his appeal, as the Arizona Senator has portrayed himself as a straight-talking maverick who is not beholden to special interests. If that image is contradicted, McCain's appeal to independents could be undermined and with it his general election strength. Sensing the opportunity, Obama pounced over the week-end: "It appears that John McCain is very much a creature of Washington and one of the things that we have said at the outset of this campaign is that if we are going to change policies...we were going to have to change how Washington works."

In response, the McCain campaign accused liberal groups of organizing a witch hunt and accused Obama of playing the "old politics" of "character assassination, especially when he has not made the names of his policy advisors public." And they sought to compare McCain's staff troubles to Obama's association with William Ayers, "Just a few years ago when Barack Obama was beginning his career in politics he was launching it at the home of William Ayers, an unrepentant domestic terrorist who his chief strategist said Senator Obama was certainly friendly with."

The comparison to Ayers certainly seems overblown, and it's hard to see the connection with McCain's ties to lobbyists. But this is just one illustration of how the general election will differ from the primary, as the Clinton campaign would never have dared bring up Ayers so directly. And it confirms that the Ayers connection -- which was brought up only once during the Democratic primaries, by George Stephanopoulous at the second Philadelphia debate -- will feature prominently in the GOP's general election arsenal.

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  • Clinton has tip-toed around Obama and all you who thought this was a tough primary are going to get a rude awakening soon. Obama will get tarred and feathered. Fortunately we'll have a back-up with proven credentials when he falls from the media pedestal.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At 19 May, 2008 12:08  

  • "Obama will get tarred and feathered."

    Q: How long can a dead horse be beaten?

    By Blogger Daniel Greenfield, At 19 May, 2008 13:33  

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