Oops! The first note of disenchantment with Arizona's mouthy, self-aggrandizing Senator John McCain has been uttered by one of the media mavens who had crowned him their political Golden Boy. In Sunday's New York Times, op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd unleashed a prickly fusillade at McCain for his tasteless joke about Chelsea Clinton being ugly because Janet Reno is her father.
"How does such a lofty figure sink to the basement?" asks Dowd, one of those who had fawned over McCain.
The Flash suggests that her column might signal a worm-turning for Humble John. Any day now, the liberaleastcoastmediaelite will realize that it has built McCain up quite enough, and the time has come to begin the ritual of tearing him down. If they had paid attention to the record, the Great Mentioners would have seen long ago that almost everything McCain touches turns to ash.
The latest of his flamboyant national issues--the tobacco legislation--was snuffed, largely because he lost the loyalty of his own Republican Senate colleagues. McCain got beaucoup press mileage out of his antitobacco crusade, yet few reporters mentioned that he's pocketed $41,000 from tobacco PACs since 1990.
McCain's fellow Republicans zapped his campaign-finance-reform plan, highly touted by the national press. Never mind that he's amassed $1.94 million in donations since January 1, 1997. Nearly a quarter of that sum has come from PACs, and $560,000 of it has come from sources outside Arizona.
McCain has hurtled through life with a devil-may-care attitude, shrugging off poor judgment and moving on quickly to yet another bungle. Consider:
* The son and grandson of Navy admirals, McCain regarded his years as Annapolis midshipman as a right, not a privilege; he snubbed rules and studies so badly he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.
* Freed from a North Vietnamese POW camp, McCain divorced his wife to marry a far younger millionairess--now he's a Family Values politician. (Yet when his wife was busted for stealing prescription painkillers from a medical charity she ran, McCain professed ignorance of her addiction.)
* Retired from the Navy, McCain parlayed his POW status to fill the seat of retiring Congressman John Rhodes. But McCain dashed into the arms of wheeler-dealer Charles Keating, who introduced McCain to the town's fat cats at a gala fund raiser at Keating's Paradise Valley estate.
* McCain sucked up to Duke Tully, swaggering ex-publisher of the Arizona Republic, making him godfather of McCain's first child in an elaborate service. Tully thereafter referred to McCain as "my own United States senator." To McCain's horror, Tully's boasts of being a combat air ace were revealed as a hoax--he never served a day in any military service. Tully resigned in disgrace.
* McCain's trips to Keating's Bahamian hideaway and liplock on the Keating money teat landed McCain in a humiliating Senate ethics investigation and the indelible appellation as one of the "Keating 5."
* Apologies aren't new for McCain. Early in his Senate career, he planted with a Senate committee questions about the Central Arizona Project too difficult for then-governor Rose Mofford to answer. When asked by reporters if he'd ambushed Mofford, McCain replied with injured "not me" denials--only to later confess his dirty trick and apologize to Mofford.
* Looking for a protege to help manage his Arizona political machine, McCain tapped a blue-blood novice politician, J. Fife Symington III. More losers were ahead: McCain's pick to oust Phoenix mayor Skip Rimsza, vice mayor Thelda Williams, was smothered; Carol Crockett, McCain's choice to defeat Maricopa County Schools Superintendent Sandra Dowling, likewise was buried at the polls.
And then there's McCain's favorite law enforcer, Sheriff Joke Arpaio, whose jail deaths and inmate abuse led to a damning Justice Department investigation and dozens of lawsuits. Last October, McCain told an Arpaio fund raiser, "This county is far safer since we have been blessed with Sheriff Jo[k]e." A subsequent study commissioned by the Jokester himself showed that Arpaio's get-tough policies did nothing to reduce recidivism among the denizens of Arpaio's gulag.
* McCain imploded when he gambled on his choice for president in 1996, Texan Phil Gramm. After McCain strong-armed Arizona legislators to spend $1 million to stage a GOP-only special primary (intended as a coronation) for Gramm's benefit, Gramm quit. McCain promptly latched on to yet another big winner, Viagra poster codger Bob Dole.
* Even as McCain lectured the nation on corruption in campaign financing, his handpicked candidate for Arizona attorney general, state Senator John Kaites, was under fire and being investigated for holding dozens of fund raisers without announcing his candidacy.
* Despite being Washington's most available TV interviewee and political celebrity, his Arizona nemesis for the GOP presidential prize, the fumbling Dan Quayle, is high in all the Republican polls, while McCain is rarely mentioned.
Dowd's closing line in her Sunday column about McCain may be the most prophetic for the ambitious Snowy-Haired Senator. "The holier they come," she wrote, "the harder they fall."
Sex and the City
The Phoenix City Council raised the licensing fees for certain businesses as part of the new city budget. But included in the fine print, the Flash has learned, is the big hand of government getting under the skirts of the free market!
Yes, in a typically sneaky bureaucratic move, the license fees for Sexually Oriented Business Employees, Sexually Oriented Businesses, Escort Bureaus and Escort Identification Cards have all been raised!
The thrust to increase the fees went almost unnoticed. Surprisingly, City Hall was not mobbed by the thousands of loyal customers who patronize these businesses again and again and again and again. And again.
This kind of government intrusion most likely won't stop. It probably won't be long before city regulators are making spot checks, and this becomes a familiar refrain in finer establishments all over the city:
"Pardon me, ma'am, but do you have a license anywhere under that g-string?"
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