John McCain’s Gambling Comes Home To Roost

Huff | Obama Diary | TALKING POINTS UT| Comment Fodder | Palin UT

UT=Updated Today.

PREVIEW OF TOMORROW — I will probably keep an open page because my first thought is about what sort of drama McCain and Camp will do, now that defeat seems written in the latest polls. Bear in mind that McCain is gambling every step of the way. I am thinking he may vote against the bailout and make that the issue from now on. He would win the plaudits of the critics, but bear in mind that the critics are in many cases reluctant YESES.

It is somewhat possible, if he does vote for the settlement, that he will throw Palin under the bus. This would preempt the news cycle and her replacement by Lieberman would set off a new round of speculation, polling and punditry.

The only thing I am certain of is that vicious McCain attacks on Barack will be stepped up. Barack will be said to be a secret Muslim whose wife hates America and so forth and so on.

I hope the Obama forces are planning another warm and happy “we are normal” time before November 4.

Barack will have the high ground and be able to call anything the McCain campaign does drama, distraction or lies or all of the above.

Unless McCain is hiding, I believe we can expect more drama tomorrow.

John McCain’s Gambling Comes Home To Roost (Huff Post link to this post. Please go there to DIGG and/or comment.)

In July, I published Is John McCain’s Gambling A Problem?, which concluded:

The MSM have gone far enough to identify the McCain proclivity, but not the extent of his losses, the actual possibility of wrongdoing in connection with his gambling or an effective effort to determine whether as President he could avoid gratifying his habit. In short we have had a first round of accounts, a great deal of interest, and no real followup.

A month later I ran a similar piece in Huffington Post — with a similar conclusion.

I have found that mention of McCain’s gambling habit is a persuasive argument to people who are on the fence and wondering who to vote for. The association of gambling with the term neocon and observation of McCain’s growing synchronicity with Bush positions is generally enough to convince an inquirer. But these days the teflon mantel seems to be moving to McCain. And to my knowledge no one has raised these questions directly.


Today, in one of the most extensive investigative pieces I have seen of late, the New York Times has not only delved into “actual possibility of wrongdoing in connection with his gambling”. It has revealed an essential aspect of John McCain.

The article, by Jo Becker and Don Van Natta, Jr., is titled, McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry

I will conclude this section by publishing four illustrative excerpts, but I want to preface that with mention of a fact about McCain that hit me like a ton of bricks while I slept on the subject last night.

McCain may be a gambler, McCain may be erratic, McCain may have done good things, but if any cumulative picture of McCain emerges from this investigative piece, and from other chapters of his career, it is that he has been a consummate, inside power-player.

McCain’s values are me-first and bellicose. McCain’s manner is erratic and gambling. But when you cut through bluster, pandering cliche and and outright, in-your-face lying, you find a person who is instinctively able, much of the time, to negotiate the dangers that exist in the labyrinths of power, to bob and weave without regard to past commitments, to fit the circumstance to the new convenience, in short, to operate at the refined quasi-criminal level of a Lyndon Johnson (Tonkin) and a Richard Nixon/Henry Kissinger (lies, lies, lies, as my friend Blll Horwitz once titled an album).

When McCain despises Barack Obama, it because he knows Obama has no clue, is massively naive, cannot bob and weave the way McCain does, juggling interests and doing favors in a subtle penumbra of doublespeak and innuendo and whispered arrangements.

Let me be plain. We have had decent Presidents with decent values and at least a commitment to honesty. They may play games but they meld necessity with some attention to values.

And we have had Presidents like Johnson and Nixon who have known the ins and outs of how to survive and conquer in the labyrinth. The problem is that these “labyrinth Presidents” have not given one tinkers’ dam about whether thousands of our young are killed, just to achieve some testosterone point or another.

Interesting that longevity in Congress may tend to exacerbate the hubris!

The decent ones have been more wary and recondite. And have saved many lives in the bargain.

These further probes into McCain’s gambling ties should serve as yet another caution:

We do not want a man at the helm whose real inner nature is to throw anyone who gets in his way under the bus, whose concept of power is to be able to get away with murder, whose very gaze — evasive but menacing — can connote a kiss of death.

This election is about sanity versus the prospect of ambient mayhem. If you merely think McCain is clueless, you are missing a key point. He is clueless only to the point of his instinctive capacity for survival, damn the torpedoes (literally).

When you are a President you can damn the torpedos all you want if you do not give a damn about anyone but yourself and have perfected the art of dissembling enough to fool a majority most of the time.

I say, be afraid. Be very afraid. And then work your butt off for Obama.


McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry

Senator John McCain was on a roll. In a room reserved for high-stakes gamblers at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, he tossed $100 chips around a hot craps table. When the marathon session ended around 2:30 a.m., the Arizona senator and his entourage emerged with thousands of dollars in winnings.

A lifelong gambler, Mr. McCain takes risks, both on and off the craps table. He was throwing dice that night not long after his failed 2000 presidential bid, in which he was skewered by the Republican Party’s evangelical base, opponents of gambling. Mr. McCain was betting at a casino he oversaw as a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and he was doing so with the lobbyist who represents that casino, according to three associates of Mr. McCain.

The visit had been arranged by the lobbyist, Scott Reed, who works for the Mashantucket Pequot, a tribe that has contributed heavily to Mr. McCain’s campaigns and built Foxwoods into the world’s second-largest casino. Joining them was Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s current campaign manager. Their night of good fortune epitomized not just Mr. McCain’s affection for gambling, but also the close relationship he has built with the gambling industry and its lobbyists during his 25-year career in Congress.

As a two-time chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain has done more than any other member of Congress to shape the laws governing America’s casinos, helping to transform the once-sleepy Indian gambling business into a $26-billion-a-year behemoth with 423 casinos across the country. He has won praise as a champion of economic development and self-governance on reservations.

“One of the founding fathers of Indian gaming” is what Steven Light, a University of North Dakota professor and a leading Indian gambling expert, called Mr. McCain.

As factions of the ferociously competitive gambling industry have vied for an edge, they have found it advantageous to cultivate a relationship with Mr. McCain or hire someone who has one, according to an examination based on more than 70 interviews and thousands of pages of documents.

EXCERPT TWO: McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry

In 1994, Mr. McCain pushed an amendment that enabled dozens of additional tribes to win federal recognition and open casinos. And in 1998, Mr. McCain fought a Senate effort to rein in the boom.

He also voted twice in the last decade to give casinos tax breaks estimated to cost the government more than $326 million over a dozen years.

The first tax break benefited the industry in Las Vegas, one of a number of ways Mr. McCain has helped nontribal casinos. Mr. Lanni, the MGM Mirage chief executive, said that an unsuccessful bid by the senator to ban wagering on college sports in Nevada was the only time he could recall Mr. McCain opposing Las Vegas. “I can’t think of any other issue,” Mr. Lanni said.

The second tax break helped tribal casinos like Foxwoods and was pushed by Scott Reed, the Pequots’ lobbyist.

Mr. McCain had gotten to know Mr. Reed during Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign, which Mr. Reed managed. Four years later, when Mr. McCain ran for president, Mr. Reed recommended he hire his close friend and protégé, Rick Davis, to manage that campaign.

EXCERPT THREE: McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry

At a September 2004 hearing of the Indian Affairs Committee, Mr. McCain described Jack Abramoff as one of the most brazen in a long line of crooks to cheat American Indians. “It began with the sale of Manhattan, and has continued ever since,” he said. “What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit.”

Over the next two years, Mr. McCain helped uncover a breathtaking lobbying scandal — Mr. Abramoff and a partner bilked six tribes of $66 million — that showcased the senator’s willingness to risk the wrath of his own party to expose wrongdoing. But interviews and documents show that Mr. McCain and a circle of allies — lobbyists, lawyers and senior strategists — also seized on the case for its opportunities.

For McCain-connected lobbyists who were rivals of Mr. Abramoff, the scandal presented a chance to crush a competitor. For senior McCain advisers, the inquiry allowed them to collect fees from the very Indians that Mr. Abramoff had ripped off. And the investigation enabled Mr. McCain to confront political enemies who helped defeat him in his 2000 presidential run while polishing his maverick image.

EXCERPT FOUR: McCain and Team Have Many Ties to Gambling Industry

In the spring of 2005, Mr. McCain announced he was planning a sweeping overhaul of Indian gambling laws, including limiting off-reservation casinos. His campaign said Las Vegas had nothing to do with it. In a 2005 interview with The Oregonian, Mr. McCain said that if Congress did not act, “soon every Indian tribe is going to have a casino in downtown, metropolitan areas.”

Prospects for the proposed California project did not look promising. Then the tribe, the Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians, hired a lobbyist based in Phoenix named Wes Gullett.

Mr. Gullett, who had never represented tribes before Congress, had known Mr. McCain since the early 1980s. Mr. Gullett met his wife while they were working in Mr. McCain’s Washington office. He subsequently managed Mr. McCain’s 1992 Senate campaign and served as a top aide to his 2000 presidential campaign. Their friendship went beyond politics. When Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, brought two infants in need of medical treatment back to Arizona from Bangladesh, the Gulletts adopted one baby and the McCains the other. The two men also liked to take weekend trips to Las Vegas.

Another of Mr. McCain’s close friends, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, was a major investor in the Guidivilles’ proposed casino. Mr. Cohen, who did not return calls, was best man at Mr. McCain’s 1980 wedding.

Scott Crowell, lawyer for the Guidivilles, said Mr. Gullett was hired to ensure that Mr. McCain’s overhaul of the Indian gambling laws did not harm the tribe.

Mr. Gullett said he never talked to Mr. McCain about the legislation. “If you are hired directly to lobby John McCain, you are not going to be effective,” he said. Mr. Gullett said he only helped prepare the testimony of the tribe’s administrator, Walter Gray, who was invited to plead his case before Mr. McCain’s committee in July 2005. Mr. Gullett said he advised Mr. Gray in a series of conference calls.

On disclosure forms filed with the Senate, however, Mr. Gullett stated that he was not hired until November, long after Mr. Gray’s testimony. Mr. Gullett said the late filing might have been “a mistake, but it was inadvertent.” Steve Hart, a former lawyer for the Guidivilles, backed up Mr. Gullett’s contention that he had guided Mr. Gray on his July testimony.

When asked whether Mr. Gullett had helped him, Mr. Gray responded, “I’ve never met the man and couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

On Nov. 18, 2005, when Mr. McCain introduced his promised legislation overhauling the Indian gambling law, he left largely intact a provision that the Guidivilles needed for their casino. Mr. McCain’s campaign declined to answer whether the senator spoke with Mr. Gullett or Mr. Cohen about the project. In the end, Mr. McCain’s bill died, largely because Indian gambling interests fought back. But the Department of Interior picked up where Mr. McCain left off, effectively doing through regulations what he had hoped to accomplish legislatively. Carl Artman, who served as the Interior Department’s assistant secretary of Indian Affairs until May, said Mr. McCain pushed him to rewrite the off-reservation rules. “It became one of my top priorities because Senator McCain made it clear it was one of his top priorities,” he said.

The new guidelines were issued on Jan. 4. As a result, the casino applications of 11 tribes were rejected. The Guidivilles were not among them.


To further plumb the McCain disdain mode, the mode of the powerful Senator who is used to being right regardless, read the whole Media Matters piece on the Kissinger Debate Flap to understand that the smiling Mr. McCain is a person for whom the word impunity would need to be invented, were there no such word before his advent.

Following the September 26 presidential debate, CNN chief national correspondent John King read a statement issued by former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in response to Sen. Barack Obama’s citation of Kissinger’s support for direct negotiation with Iran without preconditions. The statement read: “Senator [John] McCain is right. I would not recommend the next President of the United States engage in talks with Iran at the Presidential level.” But King did not point out that, contrary to Kissinger’s suggestion, at no point during the debate did Obama suggest that Kissinger had previously endorsed presidential-level talks between the United States and Iran. During the debate Obama said, “Senator McCain mentioned Henry Kissinger, who’s one of his advisers, who, along with five recent secretaries of state, just said that we should meet with Iran — guess what — without precondition. This is one of your own advisers,” and, “When we talk about preconditions — and Henry Kissinger did say we should have contacts without preconditions — the idea is that we do not expect to solve every problem before we initiate talks.” During the debate, McCain repeatedly purported to correct Obama by saying Kissinger would not support presidential-level talks with Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Each time, Obama made clear that was not his contention — that, instead, he was accurately saying Kissinger supported talks between the United States and Iran at levels below the president.


Post-Debate Obama Ad


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I load new links all the time. Yesterday’s page has different links — significant stories, breaking news, relevant opinion.

BARACK on Face The Nation Sunday VIDEOS GO

BARACK is back to an 8 point Gallup daily lead GO

TENTATIVE accord may be passed Monday GO

MAD DOG PALIN a screed about American culture GO

ART for Obama — IMAGES & text GO

TROOPERGATE still hounds Palin GO

HINT of Russia-US cooperation on Iran at the UN GO


BAILOUT brickbats but it is what it is — waft a prayer GO

SUNDAY MORNING TV lineup — guess who? Hint FTN Obama GO

SEXUAL cleansing in Iraq GO

WALL STREET favors Obama — will McCain change subject (I am sure he will — see attacks and smears above) GO

538: Yesterday’s polls (pre-debate) GO

BRISTOL’s wedding and other oddities GO

26.000 Virginians brave rain for Obama rally VIDEO GO

538’s daily polls gives Obama his most robust prospect yet GO

TINA FEY returns as Palin on SNL VIDEOS & text GO

PALIN alienates some conservative pundits GO

ANGER at bailout hinges on fat salaries GO

HIT MediaMatters for raps on Cillizza, O’Donnell & ABCNews GO

AFRICAN AMERICAN fears of an Obama defeat GO

FIRST HAND REPORT of Palin “accountability” rally in Alaska PHOTOS & text GO

57 Million watched first debate — comparative figures GO

HOW CLOSE did we come to a financial abyss? GO

THE RICK DAVIS file expands GO

POLITICO on Ohio and other close states GO

PARAGUAY’s president turned down a photo op with Palin GO

TIME flags McCain’s smears and lies GO

YGLESIAS on Kissinger and preconditions GO

YESTERDAYMcCain Talks Experience — Er, Sarah? With a PS on Palin’s alleged affair
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