On Tanker Deal, McCain Campaign Jabs At The Media

"Incredibly," writes McCain adviser Steve Schmidt in a memo this morning -- and I am broadly paraphrasing -- the national media has the audacity to ask tough questions about John McCain. And if you ask tough questions of John McCain during this campaign, especially those questions that impinge on the sensitive parts of McCain's self-definition, you'd better be prepared for the full Schmidt.

Schmidt is a veteran of the Republican National Committee, the judicial nomination battles, Vice President Cheney's office and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's re-election campaign, has one tried-and-true battle plan for of dealing with dealing with charges he finds unacceptable: a full scale, blame-the-media, ridiculousness,outrageousness,sky-is-falling, blunt, pound, pound, pound, eye-squinting, jaw-clenching, vein-bulging -- you get the idea. That's his style.

Substantively, I have always found Schmidt to be fair, ethical and responsive.

Here's the memo.

To: Interested Parties
From: Steve Schmidt
Subject: Facts on John McCain and the tanker deal
Date: 3/12/2008

Over the past few days, there have been a number of political attacks launched by John McCain’s political opponents attempting to blame him for the Boeing Company not being awarded the USAF tanker contract.

Incredibly, several news organizations have parroted the attack. Here are the facts:

John McCain uncovered a massive taxpayer rip-off and evidence leading to corruption convictions for Boeing and Pentagon officials, some of whom went to jail for their crimes. The CEO of Boeing resigned.[1] John McCain’s investigation saved the taxpayers over $6 billion dollars.[2] Is it really possible that there are Members of Congress saying that John McCain was wrong to fight and stop the corruption? Should the fraudulent deal have been permitted? Should criminals not have gone to jail? Should the Department of Defense not be held accountable to select the most capable systems for the best price to the taxpayers? Isn’t that what our security requires, and American taxpayers deserve? Are the Democrats now the Party of no-bid contracts? That John McCain is being attacked for uncovering and stopping corruption that sent criminals to jail speaks directly to everything that is wrong in Washington today. All John McCain has ever cared about is a transparent, fair defense procurement process. This process, established by the DOD following the tanker scandal, allows for a fair and open competition and an appeal process -- which Boeing is entitled to under law. John McCain fully supports Boeing's right to a review, and will demand that this review is fair. The American people want leaders that put principle over politics, who value our national security interests and the good stewardship of the taxpayers’ dollar over political self-interest. That’s what straight talk is all about. That’s John McCain.

Some of the Democratic attacks seem cheap. But the substance of the news stories are a little thicker. By asking the Air Force to change the questions it planned to ask during the bidding process, it tipped the scales in favor of EADS -- or so the reportage seems to suggest. That's what Boeing -- the company McCain investigated -- is alleging. McCain deserves the benefit of the doubt here. There's no evidence of a quid pro quo and no evidence of anything hinky... just, as I wrote yesterday, a little bit of an optics problem. Too many lobbyists with too many interests will prompt questions, and McCain will be forced to answer them.