John McCain wants us to believe that with his vast
experience in Congress, he will make better decisions than Barack Obama. But McCain
has a long history of poor judgment -- one that he even admits when pressed.
McCain was one of the infamous �Keating Five� -- five
Congress members who tried to help the worst savings and loan of the 1980s
crisis get around regulators. Between 1982 and 1987, McCain received $112,000
in political contributions from Charles Keating, Jr., then chairman of the
failed Lincoln Savings and Loan Association, and his associates. McCain and his
family made nine trips at Keating�s expense, sometimes using Keating�s jet,
according to news accounts such as in the Arizona Republic. Three of the trips were made during
vacations to Keating�s Bahamas retreat.
McCain knew how to pay back such generosity to his family.
While in the House of Representatives, McCain was among the sponsors of a
resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by
thrifts such as Lincoln.
When regulators investigated Lincoln for violating laws in
1987, Keating asked McCain and the other congressmen to meet with regulators
and plead his case. At first, McCain was �nervous� about doing so -- and
Keating called McCain a �wimp� for being concerned about the meetings,
according to the Arizona Republic. But McCain finally agreed to do it after saying he would just ask
questions about Lincoln�s treatment, not plead the thrift�s case.
So on April 2, 1987, McCain and three other senators met
with Ed Gray, then chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. A week later,
McCain and four senators met with William Black, then deputy director of the
Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., and other federal regulators. Black
told the Republic that McCain was acting the �weirdest� of all the
senators. �McCain was always Hamlet . . . wringing his hands about what to do,�
By the time Lincoln failed in 1989, McCain had wrung his
hands long enough to distance himself from Keating. Lincoln was the most
expensive failure in the scandal, as taxpayers lost more than $2 billion alone
to bail out that thrift. Others such as former Sen. DeConcini continued to
defend Keating until his thrift failed and the feds filed a $1.1 billion civil
racketeering and fraud suit against Keating, accusing him of siphoning Lincoln�s
deposits to his family and into political campaigns.
The Senate Ethics Committee investigated McCain and other
Keating Five members. In 1991, the committee decided to blame most of the mess
on DeConcini and former Sens. Riegle and Cranston, while only mildly rebuking
McCain for showing �poor judgment� in meeting with regulators on Keating�s
McCain later admitted he showed poor judgment in his
hand-wringing sessions with regulators. �It�s a wrong appearance when a group
of senators appear in a meeting with a group of regulators because it conveys
the impression of undue and improper influence. And it was the wrong thing to
do,� McCain said. �I was judged eventually, after three years, of using, quote,
poor judgment, and I agree with that assessment.�
DeConcini claims that McCain leaked to the media �sensitive information�
about certain closed proceedings in the case to help make DeConcini, Riegle and
Cranston take the fall. A congressional investigator, Clark B. Hall, later told
the Boston Globe that McCain was one of the �principal leakers.� McCain,
under oath, denied involvement with the leaks, but he was testy when a Republic
reporter asked him about an alleged business relationship between Keating and
McCain�s wife, calling him a liar and idiot.
Keating was convicted in state court in 1992 of fraud, racketeering,
and conspiracy and received a 10-year prison
sentence, serving less than five years.
McCain�s poor judgment continues
In 1983, McCain opposed the creation of a federal holiday
honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., even though Reagan signed the bill. As late
as 1994, McCain voted to cut off funding for the commission working to promote
the King holiday.
But in April 2008, as he campaigned for president, McCain
admitted he showed poor judgment in opposing that holiday. �We can be slow as
well to give greatness its due, a mistake I made myself long ago when I voted
against a federal holiday in memory of Dr. King,� McCain said in a speech in
Memphis, Tenn. �I was wrong and eventually realized that.�
During his 1986 Senate campaign, according to the Tucson
Citizen, McCain reportedly said
to an audience: �Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the
street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When
she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to
hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, �Where is that marvelous ape?��
The alleged joke was so offensive that McCain has said he
doesn�t remember saying it, even though it was reported in a newspaper. But
earlier this year, McCain tried to say in jest that he �stopped beating my wife
just a couple of weeks ago.�
In 1998, McCain again exercised poor judgment when he said
while addressing a Republican fundraiser: �Do you know why Chelsea Clinton is
so ugly? Because Janet Reno is her father.�
In one swoop, McCain made fun of the alleged awkward looks
of Chelsea, who was then only 18 and is better looking than any of McCain�s
children; Hillary Clinton, who McCain implied was bisexual; and Reno, who
McCain implied was ugly and really a man when she served as the first female US
McCain reportedly apologized to Bill Clinton, but not to
Hillary, Chelsea or Reno. But karma came back to bite McCain in South Carolina
in 2000 when Bush and Rove used a whisper smear campaign that included a rumor
that McCain fathered a black child out of wedlock -- who was really McCain�s
adopted daughter from Bangladesh.
Another smear that may actually have some truth to it that
Bush and Rove used was that McCain�s time as a POW in Vietnam caused him to
have mental problems. Some veterans, including at least one who swift-boated
Kerry in 2004, say McCain regularly misrepresents his time as a POW for
political gain. The smears helped Bush win South Carolina and go on to defeat
McCain in the Republican primary.
McCain�s poor judgment continued this year in choosing Sarah
Palin as his vice presidential running mate, a choice even many Republicans
have questioned after seeing her embarrassing performance in interviews with
Katie Couric and others. People realize that McCain is getting increasingly
senile and could have to be replaced in the White House by Palin, who took six
years and five colleges to get a journalism degree -- something yours truly did
in four years at two colleges while working full-time most of the time.
In the current economic crisis, McCain called for suspending
his campaign so he could work to persuade House Republicans to support the $700
billion financial-markets bailout. McCain took credit for a compromise, even
though those involved said he had little to do with it. A few days later, the
House voted down the proposal, and McCain couldn�t even convince one of his
home state�s representatives to support the plan. When the plan failed, McCain
called on people not to �fix blame,� then criticized Obama.
Earlier this year, McCain, who can�t remember if he owns seven
or eight houses and graduated fifth from the bottom of his class at the Naval
Academy, admitted he was �somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges
people have.� McCain is also divorced from having any semblance of good
For some more interesting reading on McCain, see McCain Profile: The Keating Five and John McCain�s past that he doesn�t want you to know!.
Jackson Thoreau is a Washington, D.C.-based
journalist and writer who has written about the Bush administration for ezines
such as OpedNews, Alternet, and Online Journal since 2000. He is the author of
the book, �Born to Cheat: How Bush, Cheney, Rove & Co. Broke the Rules -
From the Sandlot to the White House,� published in 2007.