The John McCain School of Ethics

[Peter Suderman] Over at the American Spectator, J.P. Freire has what I think is the smartest take on the McCain brouhaha I've seen so far. The real revelation here, he says, is that even a politician as seemingly devoted to principle as John McCain can't live up to the ethics standards he's promoted (and run into trouble with conservatives for doing so):

The NRA and the ACLU both can't buy ad time in the days before an election because doing so, by virtue of the ethical senator's own philosophy, is manipulating the people and hurting democracy. But when McCain hops a flight with a campaign contributor, it ought to be obvious that he's maintaining his integrity. Why is it that associations comprised of every day citizens are suspect, but a powerful politician is not? 

Sure, it's a bait and switch. But it's a very good one because it demonstrates the very problem presented by the John McCain School of Ethics. This is not a story about what happened. It's a story about what could have happened. What was feared to have happened. What, it must be assumed in good faith, did not happen. Campaign advisers were afraid that "the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity."