True Story: I have this friend who I’ve known for a long time. I can attest to the fact that he is basically a “good person,” and he has been a good friend to me over the years. But we disagree strongly on certain issues. He can be quite dishonest. In fact, he sometimes does things that are morally and legally wrong. His motivation for these acts is beside the point here; they occur. Others know of these acts, and they know of our friendship. It occurs to me that people might think the same of me because of our association.
And so I ask: Does it really matter?
I’m speaking of course about our current presidential election. One of the candidates has had past dealings with some very shady people. We are being asked to consider the kind of influences these relationships might bring to his presidency.
I’m speaking of course about John McCain and Charles Keating.
You remember Keating. He was the mastermind behind the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal. He bilked over 20,000 innocent people out of their life savings (totaling more than $250 million). In the process of trying to circumvent the law and weasel himself out of trouble, he bribed…err, “contributed to the campaigns of” five senators whose help he enlisted in trying to get less federal oversight and whose careers he nearly destroyed. One of those senators was the American icon, John Glenn. Another was Keating’s good friend, John McCain. In 1992 Keating was convicted of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy and spent nearly five years in prison.
McCain and Keating had been friends since 1981 or so. Good friends. Buddies, even. Keating had contributed over $100,000 in direct contributions to McCain. During the mid-1980’s the McCain’s also took a bunch of trips on Keating’s personal jet. You know, “freebies.” When Congress eventually called him out on it in 1991, McCain lamely said that he’d, umm, let’s see…oh yeah, “never been billed” for those trips and why, of course! he’d pay for them.
Senators have to be careful about becoming too friendly with contributors. You know what you do when you want to go into business with someone but it might seem improper if certain people found out about it? You put the business venture in your wife’s name. And that’s what the McCain’s did in 1986 when they invested in one of Keating’s properties.
Let’s not be naïve. It’s not like John and his wife Cindy didn’t talk…didn’t work together on financial stuff. It’s not like Cindy was operating in a vacuum.
The friendship between McCain and Keating soured around 1987 when Keating called McCain a wimp for not helping more with getting the federal regulators off his back. (“Wimp” is the term that made it into the papers. Knowing Keating, the epithet was probably something much more vulgar and less newspaper-friendly.)
In retrospect, we can see that Keating was only using McCain to get what he wanted. Not a very good friend, in my humble opinion. Later, Keating probably laid on his bed in his jail cell, cursing McCain. "And to think, I let him use my G**dam Gulfstream to go to his G**dam vacation house in the BAHAMAS! But I'll get him though, oh yes! If that p***y ever runs for president, I'll secretly back a Puerto Ri-...no wait...a BLACK! Yeah, I'll run a black...maybe a black MUSLIM against him! Revenge will be mine! BWAAHAHAHAHAH!"
Still, we are left to wonder just what other little deals like this McCain has been involved in over the years? I mean the ones we don’t know about…yet. He is a career politician, after all. He does get contributions of money and “things” from constituents. And sure enough, in return he does want to help those constituents. (Although, after coming “this close” to getting burned by Keating, McCain has probably kept his nose pretty clean since then.)
And so I ask again, does it really matter? Aren’t people allowed to make mistakes…and learn from those mistakes…and grow? Should we make a big deal about McCain’s judgment and the people he’s associated with in the past? Well, that depends.
It depends on how big a deal you want to make about Obama’s background.