John McCain's bimbo and corruption eruptions...

Sen. John McCain's "Oh!" face. Supposedly, the ladies love it...

Am I the only one who's found Sen. John McCain's denial of an improper relationship with Washington lobbyist Vicki Iseman to be as insincere as a late-night TV ad for a sex chat service? Right-wing radio, after skewering McCain for being untrustworthy now that he's the presumptive GOP nominee, has suddenly turned on a dime following the New York Times' expose on the 71-year-old Senator, his 40-something Sex in the City-esque urban cougar of a pal, and the favors he's reputedly done her clients. Conservative lip-flappers are calling the Times' piece a smear. They're ones to talk. It's a tactic the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys of the world are experts in.

Basically, I buy the Times piece, even though much of it is based on anonymous sources. There are two pics of Iseman floating around out there. In one, she has the hang-dog, droopy-eyed demeanor of a basset hound. In the other, however, she looks "right fit" as Sacha Baron Cohen's Ali G liked to say. Based on that second pic, and based on the theory that all men crave a little "strange" now and then, I believe the Times' line, even though Cindy McCain is a fairly well-preserved MILF herself. (Though, I'd guess from that crack-in-the-sidewalk smile of hers that she's had some work done.)

Do I think it's a big deal that a U.S. Senator might have scored with a Washington lobbyist? Come on, you know it happens all the time. As for helping out that lobbyist's clients, it ain't right, but put most men in that dilemma and they'd cave like a boat of matches in a tidal wave. That's why the French are superior to us on this issue. The French assume their leaders will have mistresses as well as wives. Otherwise, the Frogs'd figure something's wrong with the guy.

In any case, McCain's corruption eruptions are more serious than those of the bimbo persuasion.

Take the very fact that Congressman "Slick" Rick Renzi's the AZ co-chair of McCain's campaign. Everyone here in Sand Land knows Renzi's ethically-challenged, and today's indictment of Renzi and two business associates by the U.S. Attorney's office on numerous counts including "wire fraud, extortion and money laundering, and conspiracies to engage in these acts" is no surprise. Most with a political clue knew Renzi was the target of an ongoing corruption probe by the Feds. Last summer, Renzi announced he wouldn't run for Congress again, probably because he was aware something like this was coming.

So why would McCain be so stupid as to make Renzi his co-chair in AZ? I could understand the misstep if Renzi was an unknown pol repping him in some other state, but this is in McCain's own back yard. Renzi and the allegations swirling around him have been well-reported. It certainly makes you wonder if McCain has a political blind spot large enough to blot out the very state he represents.

I fully expect that McCain will be dogged throughout the campaign by various stories documenting his Janus-faced approach to political ethics. As I mentioned in a February 5 blog item, The Washington Post recently reported on McCain's meeting with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who had his visa revoked by the U.S.government because of his "suspected links to anti-democratic and organized-crime figures." McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis assisted in putting the two men together in 2006.

Davis told the Post that his contacts with Deripaska "all relate to my private business and have nothing to do with Senator John McCain." The Post said there was no evidence of wrongdoing, or of some sort of tit-for-tat. Still, such coziness with a billionaire recalls a certain coziness with a high-roller named Charles Keating.

Indeed, the ghost of the Keating Five scandal is always close by McCain. I was reminded of this in watching grizzled old legal warhorse Robert Bennett being pulled out of the barn to defend McCain in this recent joust with The New York Times. Attorney Bennett (who's famous for defending Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky case), led the Senate ethics investigation in the Keating affair back in the '80s. Bennett was criticized by another member of the Keating Five, Senator Dennis DeConcini, in his recent memoir, Senator Dennis DeConcini: From the Center of the Aisle.

In the book, DeConcini, a centrist Dem, charged that Bennett was attempting to make the controversy a "Democrat scandal" by steering it away from McCain, the scandal's sole Republican. DeConcini asserts that McCain was knee-deep in guilt. As I wrote in the Bird column "McCain Shame,"

McCain made out like a bandito, scoring a whopping $112K from Keating's [fundraising]efforts. Indeed, McCain and the slimy S&L-er were thick as thieves. While serving in the House from 1983 to 1986, McCain flew with Keating to the latter's private retreat in the Bahamas aboard Keating corporate aircraft. And the senator's trophy wife, Cindy McCain, along with her pops, invested $359K in a Phoenix shopping mall developed by an offshoot of Keating's American Continental Corporation.

At McCain's press conference yesterday, with his ice-blonde wife steadfast by his side, the senator declared that, "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust, nor make a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest and would favor anyone or any organization."

Uh, OK, so what about the Keating Five scandal? Are we supposed to let that one slide, Senator? McCain is insufferably pompous, almost preachy while holding himself up as a paragon of virtue. The reality is he has feet of clay. Or is that some other kind of brown stuff on the Senator's shoes?

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