Straight talk

By ADAM REILLY  |  May 14, 2008

For his 1998 Senate run, McCain took $562,000 in contributions from the communications industry. . . . Before his next reelection campaign, he received $900,000 more, lagging only five senators among telecom beneficiaries. Between 1993 and 2000, McCain collected $685,929 from media companies, the most of any sitting member of Congress. What do these companies have in common? They all have interests before the Senate Commerce Committee, which McCain chaired at the time.

So: does McCain’s reputation as a campaign-finance reformer pass muster or not?

4) Taken-on faith
Obama’s lengthy history with Reverend Wright was his biggest weakness in the primary, a role it will probably reprise in the general election. But McCain has pastor problems of his own. During his 2000 presidential run, McCain thrilled liberals by calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance.” This time around, however, he’s cozied up to assorted figures on the religious right — including the late Falwell (McCain spoke at the commencement ceremonies of Liberty University, which Falwell founded, in 2006), Rod Parsley (an Ohio minister who’s urged the eradication of Islam, and whom McCain called a “spiritual guide” this past February), and John Hagee (a televangelist who, among other things, has called the Catholic Church the “Great Whore”). On the one hand, McCain has said that he doesn’t share all his endorsers’ views. On the other, he hasn’t condemned any of these individuals in the emphatic way that Obama eventually repudiated Wright. What does McCain actually think about the most problematic views of Falwell, Parsley, Hagee, et al.?

5) Hints of misogyny
In 1998, at a Republican fundraiser, McCain reportedly told this awful joke: “Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly? Because her father is Janet Reno.” This past November, McCain chuckled when a South Carolina woman asked of Hillary Clinton: “How do we beat the bitch?” (After answering the question, he professed his respect for Clinton.) And according to The Real McCain: Why Conservatives Don’t Trust Him and Why Independents Shouldn’t (PoliPoint), a new book by Cliff Schecter, McCain subjected his wife, Cindy, to a vulgar tirade, including a C-bomb, when she joked about his thinning hair in 1992. (Schechter cites three unnamed Arizona journalists; McCain has denied this account.) In addition, he recently opposed legislation that would guarantee women equal pay for equal work. What does McCain’s biography tell us about his interactions with, and views on, women?

6) Physically fit to serve?
While campaigning before the New Hampshire primary, McCain said he might serve only one term if elected. Saying he planned to serve two terms, he added, “might not be a vote-getter” due to his age. He may have been joking, but there’s an underlying truth here: between his senior-citizen status (McCain would be 72 when inaugurated, the oldest elected president of all time) and medical history (he had surgery for melanoma in 2000), there’s reason to wonder how long McCain would be physically fit to hold office. A March 2008 Times story noted that McCain’s doctors had released his medical records in 1999, but had delayed doing so this time around. If he continues to do so, should we be worried? And even if his doctors give him a clean bill of health, should his age give voters pause?

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