February 21, 2008

John Weaver Calls BS (Update: Lobbyists The Sources?)

John Weaver has issued a statement that exposes the New York Times story on John McCain as a hack job. Part of their supposed corroboration of the gossip about an allegedly budding romance between McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman was his alleged intervention to stop it. Weaver, who no longer works for the campaign, says he told the Times that his intervention had nothing to do with an affair:

"The New York Times asked for a formal interview and I said no and asked for written questions. The Times knew of my meeting with Ms. Iseman, from sources they didn't identify to me, and asked me about that meeting. I did not inform Senator McCain that I asked for a meeting with Ms. Iseman.

Her comments, which had gotten back to some of us, that she had strong ties to the Commerce Committee and his staff were wrong and harmful and I so informed her and asked her to stop with these comments and to not be involved in the campaign. Nothing more and nothing less.["]

Iseman had bragged about her connections to the committee in order to expand her client list. Weaver heard about it and told her to knock it off, or she'd get frozen out. Lobbyists collect clients by making themselves appear influential, and apparently Iseman got a little too hyperbolic about her connections.

That's the extent of the supposed "intervention" -- and the Times knew it.

Let's talk about the other supposed intervention -- the one claimed by the two staffers who won't go on the record. John Weaver and Mark Salter have been McCain's two top men for ages, and were during this period of time. The Times needs to explain how two lower-level staffers could have gotten access to John McCain during a presidential primary race to stage an intervention over his personal life and his ethics without either Weaver or Salter of them being involved -- and both of them categorically deny it ever happened. Wouldn't it have been Weaver and/or Salter that would have had the access to do that kind of intervention, and not two mid- or low-level staffers?

The Times either needs to produce the staffers or retract the story. It's appalling.

UPDATE: Cleaned up some pronouns and clarified my point in the penultimate paragraph.

UPDATE II: Jonathan Martin at Politico gets an on-the-record denial from former McCain press secretary Howard Opinsky, who describes how Jim Rutenberg was "fishing around" for dirt on Iseman, of whom Opinksy had never heard. Martin asked where the story may have originated, and Opinsky thinks it could have been from disgruntled lobbyists:

Opinksy also said that the Times use of the phrase "associates" to describe their McCain sources suggests that the leak may not have come from his campaign staffers at the time.

"There was only a handful of us [working on the campaign in 1999]," Opinksy said. "We never had a staff meeting to address any of this."

Asked who was behind the story, Opinksy said: "Lobbyists tell a lot of tall tales.

"What's behind this is money. There were a bunch of lobbyists in town who knew that if John McCain became president they were going to have a hard time."

Did the Times use gossip from Iseman's competitors to publish this smear?

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