In the New York Times story, three separate McCain staffers talk about ways in which they intervened with and for their boss about his relationship with lobbbyist Vicki Iseman:
In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.
Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her. [Emphasis added]
But earlier today, McCain himself denied ever being confronted by his staff about his relationship with Iseman, also denying that he confirmed he was behaving inappropriately with her. The AP reports on the McCain press conference (via TalkLeft):
But McCain said he was unaware of any such conversation [between Weaver and Iseman], and denied that his aides ever tried to talk to him about his interactions with Iseman.
“I never discussed it with John Weaver. As far as I know, there was no necessity for it,” McCain said. “I don’t know anything about it,” he added. “John Weaver is a friend of mine. He remains a friend of mine. But I certainly didn’t know anything of that nature.” [Emphasis added]
McCain described Iseman as only a “friend.”
Now, only one side can be right. Two McCain staff said they intervened with McCain and he concurred with their assessment of his relationship of Iseman as problematic. Weaver says he met with Iseman to intervene on her side. McCain is contradicting the accounts of three separate staffers. It’s possible that Weaver’s intervention with Iseman took place without the knowledge of McCain, but McCain goes beyond denying knowledge of the Weaver/Iseman meeting to deny any reason for such a meeting to take place. Someone is lying and the law of parsimony would suggest that it’s McCain.
Marc Ambinder notes that the Times’ use of the word “associates” suggests that, in fact, the people who confronted him were not aides or staffers. He hazards that “associates” might actually be other lobbyists.
I think Ambinder is raising a good point here, but it may just as well be connected to the Times’ agreement with the sources for attribution as it is the actual role of the sources (think Scooter Libby, former Hill staffer).
It’s also possible that McCain might be getting cute with his language. If “associates” does not mean aides or staffers, his statements denying an intervention in his press conference, which the AP described as about “aides” may be linguistically correct, but dodging the question. I’d be curious to see the how the question and answer were actually framed.
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Maverick and Iceman