On Monday, David Brooks had a devastating column about Hillary Clinton and her quixotic campaign that's undermining the hopes of a democratic victory in the presidential race for a five percent chance of winning the nomination. Or maybe it's not quixotic. Does quixotic imply selfishness in its idealism? I don't know. My point here is that Brooks said that the primary campaign is only helping McCain (surprise!) and now five percent of Obama supporters said they wouldn't vote for Clinton and vice versa. I'm not one of those Obama supporters. If Clinton somehow wins the nomination I'll be voting for her and against John McCain, and not just because McCain is a republican. No, I'll be voting against McCain because for all of his truly remarkable achievements and laudatory service to this country, I think he's got an ethics problem.
First there was the whole Keating Five thing. McCain was one of five Senators found to be a little too close to donors who had legislative work before Congress. McCain recovered from his dark night, and then went on to be a bi-partisan champion, along with Russ Feingold, of campaign finance reform. That's all well and good. But then there was that infamous article in the New York Times that stirred up innuendo about McCain's relationship with a certain young-ish, pretty blond lobbyist. But the real story in that article, to me, was McCain's relationship with the corporate moguls the lobbyist represented.
He flew on their planes. He let his nonprofit take money. He did all the things that Senators do when they get cozy with big business at dinner and then go on morning news shows and declare that "Business as usual" in Washington has to end. McCain, like so many other politicians, failed to see that his actions were exactly those he was legislating against. Here's a quote from the Times article:
"Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to promote his personal battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later resigned as its chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the same kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including those from companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office."
A friend of McCain's, the former Op-Ed editor of The Arizona Republic, said he's "essentially honorable" but he "can be imprudent."
Public service is a pursuit of great honor but it's just this imprudence that gives government officials the reputation for hypocrisy and cultivates the distrust of the people. I'm not saying that deals don't have to be made. I'm not saying that compromise is the work of the devil. I'm saying that speech and actions should coincide at least on the subjects on which public officials have built their reputations. McCain rebuilt his reputation as a politician of honor with regard to campaign finance reform after a lobbying scandal. But he just can't help going back to the well. So I just can't vote for him.