Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Yippee-Kay-Yay, GOP

Republicans and Democrats have been asking themselves "why, Huck?" Why is Mike Huckabee doggedly staying in the race, when he has absolutely no hope of victory? He'd need a miracle to win!

Well, to paraphrase Hans Gruber:

You wanted a miracle, gentlemen? I give you the New...York...Times.

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, visiting his offices and accompanying him on 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 client, 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, 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.

"Redemption". Redemption from what? From McCain's membership in the Keating 5, a bunch of corrupt Senators synonymous--in the public mind--with government bending over for corporate influence. McCain may be a "maverick" warrior against special interest groups now, but nobody's lost sight of the fact that he has to be. That scandal was nasty enough that he needs to remain unimpeachable these days.

This scandal couldn't be worse. It's not that it raises the question of Gary Hart-style philandering, though it certainly does. It's that he was philandering with a lobbyist, a telco lobbyist no less. He's not just receptive to corporate lobbyists, he's intimate with them. It destroys that "Maverick" image and makes him worse than other Republicans. It puts him right back into the mold of the Keating 5. It's not going to go away, either; Republicans won't cut him enough slack, and Democrats will gleefully feast on what remains of his reputation. If there's anything to this, it could destroy his candidacy. There's no way he can win.

So he'll deny it, right?

Yeah, except that you can read the "denial" on Huffpo:

"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."

Notice something? This isn't a denial. There's nothing here denying the relationship, or its intimacy. All the bleating about "gutter politics" doesn't change that simple fact, and that line about "never done favors" can be spun forever on the definition of "favor". His people, amazingly, aren't denying the relationship. Either they can't, or won't, deny a relationship that could well scuttle his chances. The only way this makes sense is if lying just wouldn't work.

Back to Huckabee, who looks cannier by the minute. Let's say McCain drops out. That leaves Mike Huckabee as the frontrunner by default. In fact, it goes further than that, because Huckabee's staying in the race is what has maintained it as a race. All that CNN/MSNBC/Fox primary coverage has been predicated on Huckabee continuing to provide a challenger. If McCain had dropped out with everybody else out, it would have simply progressed to a brokered convention and someone like Romney would have probably taken it. If there were no race, so there would be no objections.

Instead, the presumption is going to be that Huckabee will have "won" the race. Yes, the Republican powers that be could try to nominate someone else, but then they'd have to go up against the social conservatives (egged on by the Huckster) yelling that Huckabee won fair and square, and should get the nomination. The Republicans will be between a rock and a hard place: either nominate Huck, or those small cracks in the Republican coalition are blasted wide open.

So we come back to that central question: did Huckabee know about this "miracle"? Hell, I'll do you one better: did Huckabee have something to do with it?

You have to ask yourself: why this, and why now? The Huffpo said that there was something in the Washington Post about this a little while ago, but it's quite likely that a story this explosive wouldn't have seen print unless there was some sort of new source that made it bulletproof.

We don't know who this source was, and we don't know if that source has anything to do with the Huckster. We do know, though, that Huckabee's bizarre decision to remain in the race at all costs has somehow managed to end up placing him in the perfect position to take advantage of nothing less than Divine Providence.

Nobody's asked that question yet: of what Huckabee knew, and when he knew it, and what he did about it.

So I'm asking it now:

Did we just watch John McCain get ratfucked by Huckabee?

Josh Micah Marshall thinks that the Times story got eviscerated by lawyers, which would explain why it doesn't go into any deeper detail than what I quoted. Possible, but I get the impression this won't remain under the radar for long. Since the lawyering goes back to December, it also still raises the question of why the NYT went with it now. Scuttlebutt suggests a rival publication was going to jump all over the story, but then where did their info come from?

I don't necessarily think it had much to do with Huckabee, not necessarily. The important question to be asked is how someone managed to put themselves in such a ridiculously good position to take advantage of the situation. Of course, McCain is hardly guaranteed to be done, but the odds of Huckabee managing to become the nominee absolutely skyrocketed tonight.

Edit 2: Oh, this is even better. From Radar, linked from JMM:
This evening the New York Times posted a 3,000 word takedown of Senator John McCain's ethics—and a possibly inappropriate relationship with a female lobbyist—after rival publications became aware of the details of the story, which the newspaper had been holding back.
Now isn't that interesting wording in that bit I bolded? How, exactly, did they become aware? Radar doesn't say, and I'd love to know.

Edit 3: Welcome to the club, Kos diarist BuckeyeStateBlog:
And now, Mike Huckabee's persistent insistence to stay in the battle for the Republican nomination, despite seemingly insurmountable odds (only a few hours ago) becomes crystal clear. Huck knew. Huck had to have known. Stories like this are whispered about before they break, and often they're shopped to political campaigns ahead of time. Undoubtedly Huck had the heads up.

And merely a few hours after John McCain alienated the moral majority, Mike Huckabee sent an email out to his list to remind everyone they still have a choice.

Remember, no affairs with that Mike Huckabee!

Bolding mine.

It wasn't even hours... according to the diary, it was 96 minutes. Turnaround time like that for a story this big? I'd say it's possible he did more than just find out.

One of the commentators there said that people knew earlier that there was the legal battle going on, and that might be why Huck stuck around... but then again, why didn't Romney or Giuliani? If Romney knew this was coming and still "suspended his campaign", he's a bigger idiot than anybody had ever thought. And that's saying something.

Edit 4: Welcome to digby readers. I'm not sure this is a ratfuck, but doesn't it make Huckabee make so very much sense?

Edit 5: Followups! My first was about the various comments made about this piece, and may I just say that they're all great comments and testaments to why comments threads are important. (I do try to respond to most comments I get.)

The second is about Marcy Wheeler's incredible work breaking down exactly who Iseman was working for, and what they were about.

The third, and most recent, is about McCain's crumbling narrative.Because, yes, I'm one of those bloggers who's all about the narratives.

(What can I say? It's how I roll.)

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