John McCain (R)

Almost became a Democrat?

John McCain's official storyline on the 2004 election was that he was offered the vice-presidential slot by the Kerry camp and declined. But in March, The Hill newspaper published an in-depth report to suggest that it was McCain, not Kerry, who made the first move about switching parties:

In interviews with The Hill this month, former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and ex-Rep. Tom Downey (D-N.Y.) said there were nearly two months of talks with the maverick lawmaker following an approach by John Weaver, McCain's chief political strategist.

Democrats had contacted Jeffords and then-Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in the early months of 2001 about switching parties, but in McCain's case, they said, it was McCain's top strategist who came to them.

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"Jew-counter" on his team

In early April, McCain's campaign announced that it had added Fred Malek, veteran Republican fundraiser, as its national finance co-chair. Two years ago, Slate pointed out some disturbing details about Malek's past:

It's one of the more gothic stories about Nixon related in Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's The Final Days. As they tell it, late in 1971--the same year, coincidentally, that the Washington Senators moved to Texas and changed their name to the Rangers--Nixon summoned the White House personnel chief, Fred Malek, to his office to discuss a "Jewish cabal" in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The "cabal," Nixon said, was tilting economic figures to make his Administration look bad. How many Jews were there in the bureau? he wanted to know. Malek reported back on the number, and told the President that the bureau's methods of weighing statistics were normal procedure that had been in use for years.

In 1988, when George Bush pere installed Malek as deputy chairman for the Republican National Committee, Woodward dusted off his notes and, with the Washington Post's Walter Pincus, further revealed that two months after Malek filed a memo on the matter--he'd counted 13 Jews, though his methodology was shaky--a couple of them were demoted. (Malek denied any role and said Nixon's notions of a "Jewish cabal" were "ridiculous" and "nonsense.") The 1988 story raised a predictable ruckus, and Malek beat a hasty retreat from the RNC.

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Out-of-control anger

John McCain is often lionized in the media as the face of moderation in the Republican Party. But to those who work with him, it seems that his behavior can be immoderate, to say the least. On 7/5/2006, NewsMax.com published an eye-opening expose about how McCain is seen by his colleagues on Capitol Hill:

"I have witnessed incidents where he has used profanity at colleagues and exploded at colleagues," said former Senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican who served with McCain on the Senate Armed Services Committee and on Republican policy committees. "He would disagree about something and then explode. It was incidents of irrational behavior. We've all had incidents where we have gotten angry, but I've never seen anyone act like that."

. . .

Another former senator who requested anonymity recalled an exchange at a Republican policy lunch. McCain turned on another senator who disagreed with him.

"McCain used the f-word," the former senator said. "McCain called the guy a 'sh--head.' The senator demanded an apology. McCain stood up and said, 'I apologize, but you're still a sh--head.' That was in front of 40 to 50 Republican senators. That sort of thing happened frequently."

"People who disagree with him get the f--- you," said former Rep. John LeBoutillier, a New York Republican who had an encounter with McCain when he was on a POW task force in the House. After LeBoutillier had openly tape recorded comments at a conference, McCain got the idea that LeBoutillier was secretly tape recording him.

"Are you wired up?" LeBoutillier quoted McCain as asking. "Of course not," LeBoutillier said.

"Prove it," McCain said.

LeBoutillier said he lowered his pants, apparently satisfying McCain that he was not taping him.

"He is a vicious person," LeBoutillier said.

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Terry Nelson

For years, McCain has claimed that his campaigning is about "Straight Talk." But when it came time to hire a campaign manager, he picked Terry Nelson, who is perhaps the dirtest trickster in the Republican campaign business. On December 13th, 2006, Media Matters summed up what McCain's new right-hand man has been up to:

Most recently, Nelson was responsible for a television advertisement attacking Senate candidate Rep. Harold Ford Jr. that many criticized as racist. Last year, the indictments of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) on campaign finance-related charges alleged that Nelson was the conduit for money transferred through the Republican National Committee (RNC) between DeLay's political action committee and Republican Texas House of Representatives candidates. Questions have also been raised regarding his knowledge of the 2004 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal. Moreover, Nelson's consulting firm employs a former adviser to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whose 2004 campaign tactics McCain himself called "dishonest and dishonorable."

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Broke his own campaign finance law?

McCain has been positively sanctimonious on campaign finance, and led the successful charge to ban so-called "soft money" contributions. But in March of 2006, when McCain appeared at a benefit for California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger , what he was raising for Arnold sure looked like soft money. From the Sacramento Union:

The California Democratic Party said Friday it will ask government regulators to investigate Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sen. John McCain for allegedly violating campaign-finance law.

The allegations center around a scheduled March 20 fundraiser in Beverly Hills, in which donors have been asked to contribute up to $100,000 for Schwarzenegger and the state Republican Party.

McCain, R-Ariz., is the featured speaker.

Katie Levinson, a spokeswoman for the governor's campaign, called the complaint "nothing more than frivolous nonsense." Trevor Potter, a former Federal Election Commission chairman who advises McCain, said the senator "is in full compliance with federal law."

At issue is whether McCain's appearance runs afoul of restrictions on federal officeholders taking part in events that solicit political funds. Ironically, McCain is being accused of violating a law he helped write.  

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Dumped first wife

When John McCain finally got back from Vietnam, he found that his first wife, Carol, had been in an auto accident. So what did he do?   he gave her the heave-ho. From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on 3/13/2000:

[McCain's] first wife was Carol Shepp, who had been a model in Philadelphia. They met when McCain was at the Naval Academy, began a serious relationship while he was stationed in Pensacola, Fla., and married in 1965. They had a daughter, Sydney, and McCain adopted Shepp's sons, Douglas and Andrew.

As everyone knows, McCain was imprisoned in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. During that time, his wife was severely injured in an automobile accident.

In February 1980, McCain petitioned a Florida court to dissolve the marriage, saying it was "irretrievably broken." His wife didn't contest the divorce. McCain agreed to pay her medical bills for life and gave her the deeds to houses they owned in Virginia and Florida.

Family friends blamed the breakup on McCain's 5 1/2-year absence --- he was shot down in October 1967 and not released until March 1973 --- as well as affairs he later acknowledged.

 

Anti-religion

Recently McCain has been trying to make nice with the religious right. But they won't soon forget his intemperant remarks to an audience in Virginia Beach. And what's less remembered is that immediately afterward, given an opportunity to retract his unfortunate remarks, he refused to do so. From USA Today on 3/2/2000:

Campaigning in California, McCain was peppered with questions about his portrayal of evangelist Pat Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell as "forces of evil" and "agents of intolerance." He drew sharp rebukes from friend and foe.

During an appearance on MSNBC's Hardball, however, McCain said he "must not and will not retract anything I said" in the speech Monday that started the controversy. "It was carefully crafted, it was carefully thought out."

 

Flip-flopped on gay marriage

When the Republicans tried to pass a Federal Marriage Amendment in 2005, John McCain was against it.   From the Los Angeles Times on 1/25/2005:

Some Republican senators, including John McCain of Arizona, . . . have opposed the amendment, calling it an unnecessary federal intrusion into states' rights.

But in April 2006, while trying to court the right-wing vote, McCain suddenly told Meet The Press that he's for it:

In my state of Arizona, we have a ballot initiative on this issue, which I am supporting... if through the court process, they say that that's not constitutional, then I would support a constitutional amendment.

 

"Gooks"

Asian-American voters won't be happy to hear about how John McCain used a shocking ethic slur while on his campaign in 2000. From the New York Times on 2/8/2000:

[R]eporters asked [McCain] about a report that he had referred to his Vietnamese captors as "gooks" while on his campaign bus in October. "I'll call right now my interrogator that tortured me and my friends a gook," said Mr. McCain who was a prisoner for five-and-a-half years. "You can quote me."

He called his guards "cruel and sadistic people" and said "I will continue to refer to them in language that might offend some people here, because of their beating and killing and torture of my friends. I hated the gooks and I will hate them as long as I live."

 

Keating Five Scandal

John McCain was implicated in one of the biggest Congressional scandals of the 1980s. Slate gave a good summation on 2/18/2000:

In early 1987, at the beginning of his first Senate term, McCain attended two meetings with federal banking regulators to discuss an investigation into Lincoln Savings and Loan, an Irvine, Calif., thrift owned by Arizona developer Charles Keating. . . .

At Keating's behest, four senators--McCain and Democrats Dennis DeConcini of Arizona, Alan Cranston of California, and John Glenn of Ohio--met with Ed Gray, chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, on April 2. Those four senators and Sen. Don Riegle, D-Mich., attended a second meeting at Keating's behest on April 9 with bank regulators in San Francisco.

Regulators did not seize Lincoln Savings and Loan until two years later. The Lincoln bailout cost taxpayers $2.6 billion, making it the biggest of the S&L scandals. In addition, 17,000 Lincoln investors lost $190 million.

. . .

Keating was more than a constituent to McCain--he was a longtime friend and associate. McCain met Keating in 1981 at a Navy League dinner in Arizona where McCain was the speaker. Keating was a former naval aviator himself, and the two men became friends. Keating raised money for McCain's two congressional campaigns in 1982 and 1984, and for McCain's 1986 Senate bid. By 1987, McCain campaigns had received $112,000 from Keating, his relatives, and his employees--the most received by any of the Keating Five. (Keating raised a total of $300,000 for the five senators.)

After McCain's election to the House in 1982, he and his family made at least nine trips at Keating's expense, three of which were to Keating's Bahamas retreat. McCain did not disclose the trips (as he was required to under House rules) until the scandal broke in 1989.

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Age

If John McCain were to win in 2008, he would be the oldest person ever elected to a first term as President. (Ronald Reagan was 69 years old at his inauguration.)

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