Watching John McCain hold forth at Rick Warren’s Forum last weekend, I was reminded of one of the key principles of propaganda (a subject we study at the Annenberg School for Communication) which is the “Big Lie”. The concept behind it (as Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf ) is to create a web of falsehoods so complete that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously”. The little lie he told to Rick Warren about being in a “cone of silence” was nothing compared to the falsehoods at the heart of his image. John McCain’s campaign is based solely on the big lie that he is an independant man of superior character and judgement who is not afraid to buck the power structures of Washington.
It is a Big Lie.
Today I will consider the evidence of McCain’s character. Tomorrow, I will talk about his judgement.
When John McCain married his first wife Carol in 1965, she was a beautiful tall swimwear model with a delicious sense of humor.
But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries. When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.
McCain, always the flyboy/playboy, quickly lost interest in his crippled wife and started playing around. For a man who had been a “war hero” and from a long family of Navy admirals, his move up to Admiral should have been assured. McCain’s campaign told the New York Times that he would have been promoted to Admiral, but the lure of politics made him leave the Navy. Evidence suggests (McCain refuses to allow the Navy to release his complete service record) that the Navy was not enamored of McCain’s swagger and had no intention of making him an Admiral. Like any ambitious career man, McCain left because his advance was blocked.
Through Ross Perot, who had paid for all of Carol McCain’s many operations (McCain claimed he was broke), McCain met Ronald Reagan and decided that a life in politics was his new career path. But that required money and lots of it. Enter Cindy Hensley, and more importantly her father Jim, a multimillionaire beer distributor with heavy duty Arizona political connections.
In 1979 – while still married to Carol – he met Cindy at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Over the next six months he pursued her, flying around the country to see her. Then he began to push to end his marriage.
Carol and her children were devastated. ‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Nancy Reynolds, a former Reagan aide. ‘They never displayed any difficulties between themselves. I know the Reagans were quite shocked because they loved and respected both Carol and John.’
After marrying Cindy, McCain began to move in a faster crowd in Arizona, including Charles Keating and Mafia Don Joe Bonnano. Jim Hensley knew all these shady characters because he had taken the fall in 1948for Arizona Mafia boss, Kemper Marley when the fed’s busted his liquor monopoly. As a reward Marley gave Hensley a beer distributorship when he got out of prison. But Marley’s involvement would come back to haunt both Hensley and potentially McCain when in 1976 an enterprising Arizona Republic reporter named Don Bolles began to investigate the ties between the Mafia and local politicians.
On June 2, 1976, Bolles left behind a short note in his office typewriter explaining he would meet with an informant, then go to a luncheon meeting, and be back about 1:30 p.m. He was responsible for covering a routine hearing at the State Capitol, and planned to attend a movie with second wife Rosalie Kasse that night in celebration of their eighth wedding anniversary. The source promised information on a land deal involving top state politicians and possibly the mob. A wait of several minutes in the lobby of the Hotel Clarendon (now known as the Clarendon Hotel) was concluded with a call for Bolles himself to the front desk, where the conversation lasted no more than two minutes. Bolles then exited the hotel, his car in the adjacent parking lot just south of the hotel on Fourth Avenue.
Apparently, Bolles started the car, even moving a few feet, before a remote detonated bomb consisting of six sticks of dynamite taped to the underside of the car beneath the driver’s seat was detonated, the impact shattering his lower body, opening the driver’s door, and leaving him mortally wounded while half outside the vehicle. Both legs and one arm were amputated over a ten day stay in St. Joseph’s Hospital, the eleventh day was the reporter’s last. However, his last words after being found in the parking lot the day of the bombing were: “They finally got me. The Mafia. Emprise. Find John (Harvey Adamson).”
The exact motive for the crime remains a mystery, but many speculate the Mafia holds responsibility, as a large concentration of Bolles’ work involved organized crime, even going as far as to run a story naming over 200 known mafia members operating in the state of Arizona. Some suspected that Kemper Marley, a man who made millions in the liquor distribution business in Arizona, was behind the Bolles murder, but Phoenix police could find no evidence linking him with the crime, and he continued conducting business in Arizona until meeting his own death, cancer-related, on June 25, 1990 in La Jolla, California.
The 1976 assassination of Don Bolles (who may or may not have been investigating the connection between the Hensley’s and Kemper Marley) did nothing to slow down John and Cindy Hensley McCain’s ambition to play with the big boys of Arizona finance and politics. Charles Keating, the most powerful man in Arizona business was one of the first to support McCain’s political career.
Charlie Keating always took care of his friends, especially those in politics. McCain was no exception.
In 1982, during McCain’s first run for the House, Keating held a fund-raiser for him, collecting more than $11,000 from 40 employees of American Continental Corp. McCain would spend more than $550,000 to win the primary and the general election.
In 1983, as McCain contemplated his House re-election, Keating hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for him, even though McCain had no serious competition. When McCain pushed for the Senate in 1986, Keating was there with more than $50,000. By 1987, McCain had received about $112,000 in political contributions from Keating and his associates.
McCain also had carried a little water for Keating in Washington. While in the House, McCain, along with a majority of representatives, co-sponsored a resolution to delay new regulations designed to curb risky investments by thrifts such as Lincoln.
McCain’s willingness to try to limit the regulation of S & L’s like Keating’s Lincoln Savings was not enough to save Charlie Keating’s hide, because the bank was involved in the most basic kind of fraud–loaning money to associates based on phony valuations of land and buildings. When the Federal Home Loan Bank moved to close down Keating’s operation, McCain once again came to the rescue. In April of 1987 McCain and four other senators (DeConcini, Glenn, Cranston and Riegle) had two meetings with the Federal regulators and bank auditors. William Black, then deputy director of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp. later talked to the Arizona Republic about the second meeting.
In an interview with The Republic, Black said the meeting was a show of force by Keating, who wanted the senators to pressure the regulators into dropping their case against Lincoln. The thrift was in trouble for violating “direct investment” rules, which prohibited S&Ls from taking large ownership positions in various ventures.
“The Senate is a really small club, like the cliche goes,” Black said. “And you really did have one-twentieth of the Senate in one room, called by one guy, who was the biggest crook in the S&L debacle.”
Black said the senators could have accomplished their goal “if they had simply had us show up and see this incredible room and said, ‘Hi. Charles Keating asked us to meet with you. ‘Bye.'”
The ensuing Keating Five Scandal is called an “asterisk” on his otherwise spotless record by McCain, who managed to get off with a slap on the wrist. All the other four Senators left office within three years. But in actuality, McCain was the one deepest in the pocket of Charlie Keating.
He had adopted the blanket defense that Keating was a constituent and that he had every right to ask his senators for help. In attending the meetings, McCain said, he simply wanted to make sure that Keating was treated like any other constituent.
Keating was no ordinary constituent to McCain.
On Oct. 8, 1989, The Arizona Republic revealed that McCain’s wife and her father had invested $359,100 in a Keating shopping center in April 1986, a year before McCain met with the regulators.
The paper also reported that the McCains, sometimes accompanied by their daughter and baby-sitter, had made at least nine trips at Keating’s expense, sometimes aboard the American Continental jet. Three of the trips were made during vacations to Keating’s opulent Bahamas retreat at Cat Cay.
McCain also did not pay Keating for some of the trips until years after they were taken, after he learned that Keating was in trouble over Lincoln. Total cost: $13,433.
When the story broke, McCain did nothing to help himself.
“You’re a liar,” McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating.
“That’s the spouse’s involvement, you idiot,” McCain said later in the same conversation. “You do understand English, don’t you?”
He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife’s ties to Keating.
“It’s up to you to find that out, kids.”
Everyday John McCain runs an ad called “Washington’s Broken” which begins with the note that “we are worse off than we were four years ago” and then goes on to promise that “only McCain” has taken on the special interests in a corrupt capital. But even conservative Republican’s know this is one more big lie. As Mark Levin, writing in theNational Review Online observed,
McCain was the only Republican implicated in the Keating Five scandal, yet today he lectures his party and his president about “the corrupting influence” of money in politics. He rails against the so-called “wealthy special interests” and their ability to buy access to elected officials, yet this is precisely what the Keating Five scandal was all about. And, of course, under McCain’s current standard, a politician who takes a principled position that may benefit a donor is corrupt, even if no law has been violated. The John McCain of old should be thankful that his political fate wasn’t determined by John McCain the reformer.
McCain’s defenders will say that this is all of this sad history of corruption and marital infidelity is in the past and that he is “born again” as a righteous man. He told Pastor Rick Warren that he is practicing Baptist, even though he has never been baptised in that faith (that’s important to Baptists). But as I pointed out in February, McCain’s willingness to work closely (literally and figuratively) with lobbyists like Vicki Iseman to do the bidding of con men like Bud Paxon, puts a lie to that notion.
It may well be that McCain’s Big Lie strategy is successful in November. He certainly has conned most of the Establishment Media. And certainly the Karl Rove team he has hired are truly world class propaganda ministers. Only time will tell.