Hmmmmm….wonder if the "McCain Lobbyist Express" ever gets cramped from all that effort to avoid discussing the many clients that line all those lobbyists’ pockets while they are riding around the country with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. Are we to believe that the subject never, ever comes up with all those lobbyists and former lobbyists hanging around, trading bon mots on political and professional conquests aplenty? Just too pure of heart to ever cross an ethical line, are they?  

Well, I’m not buying it.  Again.  Via BostonGlobe:

McCain’s longtime effort to crack down on tobacco is being put to a new test. Within weeks, the Senate is expected to vote on legislation to allow the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco. McCain agreed months ago to cosponsor the current bill with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, but McCain’s policy adviser said the senator won’t commit to voting for it until he sees the final legislation. 

McCain has also dropped his support for increasing cigarette taxes. Last year, McCain voted against legislation that would have used a 61-cents-per-pack tax to expand a children’s health program. He told a television reporter earlier this year that he would have a "no new taxes" policy as president.

McCain’s decade of work on tobacco, one of the most significant efforts of his congressional career, has earned him enmity from the industry and from some fellow Republicans over the years. At the same time, public-health advocates have celebrated his support of tobacco regulation. But now, some antismoking activists are disappointed that the presumptive Republican nominee for president has backed off from the tobacco tax, which they consider key to improving public health….

The memo noted that among the Philip Morris representatives slated to attend a meeting with McCain was Charlie Black, who was a lobbyist for the tobacco company and is now McCain’s senior campaign adviser.

In an interview, Black said McCain initially welcomed industry representatives to make their case in various ways and said the Arizona Republican wanted to strike a compromise that would satisfy the industry and public-health advocates….

Black said he didn’t talk to McCain about tobacco legislation after that, although Philip Morris continued to aggressively target McCain in its campaign against the bill. Black stopped working for the company in 2001 and said he hasn’t discussed any issues related to his clients with McCain while serving as the senator’s senior adviser in the current campaign…. 

The issue could again become a focus of a presidential campaign – but because of McCain’s opposition to taxing cigarettes, rather than his support for it.  (emphasis mine)

What changed your mind, Sen. McCain? The public deserves full answers, because that’s an abrupt shift from your past actions and words.  Of course, McCain could just follow his own MO and not even bother to show up for his Senate work.  Doesn’t do away with questions, but does avoid having to give any immediate, definite answers on where he stands…and why. 

How exactly does senior campaign advisor Charlie Black divorce his tobacco lobbyist insider knowledge from his political advisor campaign guru self when he discusses political advantages of various strategies and fundraising opportunities, anyway?  Or, for that matter, every other lobbyist and former lobbyist on the McCain payroll or fundraising arm?  How, exactly, can anyone argue with a straight face they are just in it out of the goodness of their little ole hearts and not hoping for anything else?  Did we all learn nothing from watching the Abramoff mess unravel?

For more on Charlie Black, read herehere and here for starters…

(YouTube — trailer from "Thank You For Smoking.")