FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When Torture is Old News

by LILIANA SEGURA

Upon being confronted with The New York Times’ “bombshell” report of his too-cozy relationship with a “lady lobbyist” during his last presidential campaign, GOP contender John McCain took a page from the Bush playbook and blamed the media.

His spokesperson, Jill Hazelbacker, called it “a hit-and-run smear campaign.” McCain invoked his service to his country and issued a blunt denial: “Obviously I am very disappointed in The New York Times article,” he said. “It’s not true.” And in what might be her second public utterance since she piped up to say that she is very proud of her country, would-be First Lady Cindy McCain — who bears an eerie resemblance to the lobbyist in question — joined her husband at a press conference to say that she, too, was “very disappointed in The New York Times.”

“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics,” Hazelbacker declared in an official statement.

Maybe so — but you can’t say the same for the media. Just when it looked like McCain was comfortably, boringly, settling into his role as GOP nominee, a sexy front-pager broke that would not only spice things up, it would give the press a chance to drop everything and indulge in a little journalistic naval-gazing.

Hours after the Times posted its story Wednesday night, The Washington Post followed with its own version of a politician-meets-lobbyist tale told amid fundraising venues and inside private jets. AlterNet’s Joshua Holland provides the sordid summary:

“The heart of the Times (and Washington Post) story is that staffers became concerned that McCain, the Patron Saint of Straight-Shooterdom, was overly cozy with a lobbying hottie — a lobbyist whose clients had business before a committee McCain chaired — and warned her off of the Senator’s campaign. That comes from a named source, John Weaver, who says he was personally present at a meeting with (Vicki) Iseman, and personally warned her off.”

The blogosphere lit up overnight, and following McCain’s 9 a.m. press conference, every talking head on television was weighing in on the McCain “sex scandal” — a scandal that ultimately has precious little to do with sex, given that the Times fell short of proving anything actually happened between McCain and Iseman.

In some ways, McCain is right: The media should be blamed — but not just for shoddy reporting of a rather sexless scandal. They should be castigated for ignoring a much more important and damning story about the so-called principled maverick — one that has actual implications for American democracy.

Mere hours before The New York Times broke its story on Wednesday, McCain made a totally unrelated — and apparently un-newsworthy — statement to reporters, in which he called for President Bush to veto the Senate’s anti-torture bill. He talked in support of “additional techniques” for interrogation, sounding ever more in line with the White House’s official stance. McCain, the “war hero” who has been an outspoken opponent of torture, voted against the bill, which would restrict the CIA to some 19 interrogation techniques listed in the Army field manual.

Now, having passed the Senate, the bill is headed for a veto at the hands of President Bush. For a man who would be president — and who is practically giddy at the prospect of being Commander in Chief — McCain’s push for a veto is ominous.

His evolving position on torture should be deeply troubling — much moreso than the current scandal. Yet it has received a fraction of the media attention that has already been devoted to whatever he did or did not do with a blonde lobbyist eight years ago.

Meanwhile, right-wing McCain supporters and critics alike are making so much noise chattering about family values and attacking the Times, McCain’s about-face on torture is likely to stay buried.

In fact, “the Times story may have succeeded in accomplishing what politics itself could not,” observed The Atlantic’s Marc Ambiner, “unifying the conservative base around McCain by way of their visceral disgust with The New York Times and its lib-ber-ral politics.”

So how did this mess get started?

According to an article published Thursday afternoon in The New Republic, word got out about the Times’ months-long investigation of McCain, so the publishing giant may have rushed to press to keep from getting scooped by another publication.

But that theory — ripped from the mouths of none other than McCain’s own advisers — is about as flimsy as the sex scandal itself.

Between right-wing howling against the Times and nerdy journalism gossip, the McCain fracas has largely become a story about a story. “We’re going to war with The New York Times,” the McCain camp announced the night the article broke. Robert Bennet, McCain’s lawyer, complained to Wolf Blitzer that he had sat down with reporters and shown them “10 to 12 instances” where McCain had refused to do her bidding — but those examples had remained conspicuously absent from the piece.

At least some in the media have acknowledged that, distilled to its base, there’s very little that’s news in this story — unless you actually bought into the myth that McCain is the straight-shooting, ethical politician he claims to be.

Yet the coverage continues. “I think we’re going to have a feeding frenzy for a day, maybe a day and a half, then it will go away because it’s a nothing story,” one McCain adviser said.

In contrast, no media feeding frenzy followed McCain’s vote against the anti-torture bill last week. It was forgotten faster than you could say “waterboarding.”

Of course, this is a “sex scandal.” Torture, by comparison, is old news.

Liliana Sequra writes for Alternet, where this column originally appeared.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail