The G.O.A.T. "McCain is Old" Joke
Can we now focus on how his political career is indebted to divorcing his first wife once he got back from Vietnam and marrying a beer heiress? Or that his weird and creepy "Barbara Anne"/"Bomb Iran" joke is even worse in context? Or, maybe, we can all discuss who he is totally confused on foreign policy, housing and the environment?
I'd also like a few reporters to take their cues from what former Nixon legal counsel John Dean has to say about the McCain/Iseman story in the Times:
My knee-jerk response after considering who Wikipedia says Bennett has represented in the past — President Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky investigation; Caspar Weinberger, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, during the Iran-Contra scandal; Clark Clifford in the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) scandal; Paul Wolfowitz in the World Bank Scandal; the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops during the child molestation debacle and Judith Miller in the Valerie Plame case — is that McCain and Iseman have a three kids and a house in Fairfax, Va.
Months ago, when the Times was doing its investigation, McCain hired Washington attorney Bob Bennett to deal with this story. Bennett stated on "Hardball" that he has not talked to his client about taking legal action, but that he would counsel against it because McCain is a public figure, making such a lawsuit difficult to win. Bennett also said that McCain must keep focused on his presidential campaign, rather than be diverted by a difficult lawsuit.
This answer was strikingly hasty, however, for this savvy lawyer. While any lawyer might give similar advice, a lawyer convinced of his client's innocence might have added that he was placing the New York Times on notice, and that he would demand a retraction. He might also have said that if the Times failed to retract the story, then his client would take appropriate legal action at the appropriate time. This is precisely what Senator Goldwater did when he was defamed during the 1964 presidential race, when he filed a lawsuit (that he eventually won).
If Ms. Iseman is sincere in her denial, moreover, then she does not have the same problems as McCain. She is not a public figure and she is not running for president. This surely is not a story that will help her career as a lobbyist. To the contrary, she might find her job has been made impossible because of this adverse publicity. In fact, it strikes me that in many ways she has been damaged more than McCain. Yet there is no indication she plans to take any action against the Times.
In sum, it seems that both parties' denials to the Times story are even weaker than the story itself, which give the story added credibility. Unless the Times or another news organization drops another shoe, or McCain and Iseman take no action to protect their reputations, then this highly suggestive story and these weaker responses will no doubt soon vanish. I can understand McCain's taking that route, but I cannot understand Iseman's current position (as I write this, she is hiding from the news media), if she has in fact been falsely charged. Or perhaps she is talking to a lawyer right now.