John McCain’s Campaign Woes: The Cheney Factor


I attended a John McCain Mixer at “The Core Club” in New York last year (on an evening I had helped organize a George Soros book party in the same club) and was impressed with McCain’s unambiguous support for stem cell research, his smart views on immigration reform, as well as his candor that he felt America was doing few of the things a nation had to do to reinvent itself and to establish great objectives and pursue them.
But I disagreed with him on his support of the Iraq War and was surprised that he didn’t feel that America’s wrong-headed, military dominant approach to the Middle East had done enormous damage to our national prestige, military capacity, and ability to get things done in the world.
At that time, I chatted with the McCain campaign’s CEO, Rick Davis, who recently has taken over the reins of the sputtering McCain campaign with the firings of John Weaver and Terry Nelson and virtual side-lining of long-time McCain Senate office Chief of Staff Mark Salter.
I expressed surprise to Davis that Senator McCain was allowing a dispute with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki over some content in his prize-winning film, Why We Fight, to get out into the public. Mark Salter, the Senator’s chief of staff, had felt misled by Jarecki on a number of fronts and was angry that the filmmaker had included a clip of McCain criticizing corrupt defense industry practices in Iraq — and was implicitly criticizing Vice President Cheney or at least saying an investigation would be justified in the proliferating cases of no-bid defense contract awards to Haliburton. At the time that McCain said this on film, someone from McCain’s staff interrupted and said audibly that Vice President Cheney was on the phone. McCain looked surprised — and then took the call. It was a hilarious clip, but Mark Salter and Eugene Jarecki were engaged in a fairly public tiff about this.
The bottom line at the time was that Mark Salter strongly supported the war and felt that there should be no gap at all between McCain and Cheney, not to even mention no gap between the Senator and President Bush.
However, Rick Davis — a very smart, savvy political hand — told me then, more than a year ago, that he felt that they should be “running against Cheney.”
Rick Davis is the new head of the McCain campaign, and he was right in June 2006 when he made that comment to me. It’s too bad that the Senator and his core campaign staff did not listen to Rick Davis’s view until now, when it is perhaps too late.
More later.
— Steve Clemons
Ed. Note: I will hyperlink relevant materials to the post above after I return to the U.S. I am posting this from an airline lounge in Berlin’s Tegel Airport, and the system here is not allowing any hyperlinks. SCC
Subseqent Update: the links have been added. SCC


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