The BBC has a show called "Dinner with Portillo," and this week they decided it would be a good idea to take it on the road to New York and assemble a group which included me, Joe Klein and John Podhoretz.
Sort of like Pickett’s charge — seemed like a good idea at the time.
Anyway, we gathered in New York at the Waldorf where waiters in white jackets served us dinner while the cameras rolled. We were supposed to be talking about the relationship between Hollywood political product and real American politics, I suppose as a way to hook the British audience into the US election.
What became quickly apparent was that the BBC had no idea that JPod’s Commentary Magazine and Joe Klein were currently embroiled in a bitter war, the former having accused the latter of being an antisemite. No sooner had the dinner begun than the two were screaming at each other over the table. "You’re a shithead! You’re a shithead!" screamed The Pod. "Why don’t you just call me an antisemite? That’s what you do!" retorted Klein.
I’m shoveling food into my face to keep from laughing and thinking "my kingdom for a Blackberry."
About 10 minutes in, Portillo stopped everything and said this footage wasn’t ever going to see the light of day, and could we start over and talk more about the West Wing or something.
But this being the silly season, the conversation drifted back where it would. It was largely impenetrable, couched as it was in beltway conventionalism, but at one point it predictably wandered to the topic of what an honorable guy John McCain was.
At which point I had to inject that "honorable" wasn’t the first word I’d use to describe someone who came home after Vietnam, cheated on his handicapped wife and left her for a cheerleader beer heiress who could finance his political ambitions. JPod scoffed and said that was a liberal interpretation of the facts, and how did I know what went on between two people.
I was actually about to give him that when Joe Klein interjected, "I’ve talked to McCain about what happened and he’s deeply ashamed of what he did to his first wife."
I hadn’t heard that before. McCain has largely gotten away with saying that he "takes full responsibility for the breakup," and beyond that he "doesn’t know." And the press seems to consider it part of his sacrosanct POW experience and doesn’t touch it.
But this does raise the question — if the over 65 white women demographic is so very important to McCain right now, why aren’t there ads out there bringing this to the fore?
It does touch a nerve with women. From Cathy Meyer, who writes about divorce support:
If John McCain felt good about his actions toward his first wife, he would not be sidestepping questions about the subject. I want to know what he was thinking 30 years ago. What beliefs he held back then that helped him justify cheating on his wife and whether or not those beliefs have changed.
This is the way I view it. Thirty years ago, John McCain wanted Cindy. He did whatever he had to do to get Cindy. That included destroying his family. Leaving a wife, someone who had waited for him while he was a POW, had been severely injured in a car accident and was quite dependent on her husband. He broke up the family of his young children because his desire for a woman 17 years his junior was more important than the needs of the woman he was already married to and the needs of his children.
John McCain now wants to be president. We know from his past actions that when McCain wants something he is willing to go about getting it in an immoral way. His refusal to openly answer questions about the failure of his first marriages causes me to question whether his belief system has changed. Does he still believe that it is OK to get what you want in spite of whom you have to hurt in the process?
Female journalists like Katie Couric and Andrea Mitchell are already beginning to get crispy toward the McCain campaign and their daily caterwauling about "sexism" toward Sarah Palin. (Coming from a guy who makes rape jokes, the irony shouldn’t be hard for anyone to grasp.)
The Obama campaign killed off the 527s who would normally handle this kind of thing. But if the McCain campaign has decided that we’re going to decide this race on "character," and calling Obama a child molester is fair game, then there’s no reason why the Obama campaign can’t raise the issue themselves.