FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

When Torture is Old News

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:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
Nick Pemberton
Gen Z and Free Speech
Bob Lord
The U-Turn That Made America Staggeringly Unequal
Josh White
The Most Important Election in British History
Daniel Warner
The Hillsborough Soccer Tragedy: Who is Responsible?
Dean Baker
The Big Deal in Warren’s Prescription Drug Plan
George Ochenski
Another Utility Disaster Headed Our Way
Binoy Kampmark
Spying on Assange: the Spanish Case Takes a Turn
Victor Grossman
Big Rallies and Big Differences in Germany
L. Ali Khan
A Playboy Misrules Pakistan
William J. Astore
How American Exceptionalism is Killing the Planet
Susie Day
The Mad Activist Impeaches Western Culture
Andrés Castro
Look Out for the Drift
December 04, 2019
Jefferson Morley
RIP Fred Hampton: a Black Visionary Assassinated by the FBI
Vijay Prashad
Wealthy Countries’ Approach to Climate Change Condemns Hundreds of Millions of People to Suffer
Kenneth Surin
The Tory Election “Campaign” to Date
Maria Paez Victor
Indians Shall Not Govern
Peter Lackowski
Bolivia’s Five Hundred-Year Rebellion
Dave Lindorff
Billionaire Entitlement Run Amok: the Case of Michael Bloomberg
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Is Corbyn for Christmas Just Another Stove Pipe-Dream?
Howard Lisnoff
Elizabeth Warren: Savior of a Fallen System?
Robert Fisk
The Remembrance Poppy is Becoming a Weapon Against Immigrants to Canada
Dean Baker
NAFTA was About Redistributing Wealth Upwards
Richard Greeman
French Unions and Yellow Vests Converge, Launch General Strike
Binoy Kampmark
Legitimised Surveillance: Kim Dotcom’s Case Against GCSB
Walter Clemens
Goodbye Law and Morality, Welcome Pretend Tough!
Sam Pizzigati
Football Without Billionaires? Why Not?
Anthony Giattino
Royal Forests of America
December 03, 2019
Richard Lachmann
Can the US Get Out of Its Endless Wars?
Ramzy Baroud
Israel’s Unfinished ‘Coup’
David Rosen
The Dialectics of Postmodern Sexual Identity
Robert Fisk
Reporting Syria: I Talked to Everyone, Except Assad
Patrick Cockburn
Why the Resignation of Iraq’s Prime Minister May Not Stop the Mass Uprising on the Horizon
Norman Solomon
For Corporate Media, It’s ‘Anybody But Sanders or Warren’
Bob Scofield
Uruguay Turns to the Right
Joe Emersberger
Talking About Ecuador’s Political Prisoners: an Interview With Marcela Aguiñaga
Medea Benjamin
Trump Was Right: NATO Should Be Obsolete
Nyla Ali Khan
Lesson in Diplomacy for India’s Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty
William Gudal
The Bubble Machine
Gaither Stewart
Dirty Hands
Peter Certo
End the Wars, Win the Antiwar Vote
Binoy Kampmark
The Liveris Formula: Dow’s Inclusive Capitalism
Dan Bacher
California Freezes New Fracking Permits – But All Oil Drilling Permits Still Outpace 2018
Kay Sather
Can’t Get No Satisfaction?
December 02, 2019
Rob Urie
Ukraine, the New Cold War and the Politics of Impeachment
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail