Alter: Media giving McCain a 'free ride' by ignoring Keating involvement
Nick Juliano and David Edwards
Published: Tuesday September 23, 2008

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While John McCain and his aides can complain all they want about the treatment they've received in the press over the last few days, the Republican presidential candidate should be thankful that one unfortunate episode from his past hasn't reemerged on the nation's front pages, says Newsweek's Jonathan Alter.

McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal, during the Savings & Loan collapse that wreaked havoc on the economy in the late 1980s, has gone virtually unmentioned as the Arizona Senator tries to argue he can get America out of its current fiscal funk.

"It's crazy, but there has been very little about it in the press in the last few weeks," Alter told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann Monday night. "McCain thinks he's getting a hard time, he's really getting a free ride on the fact that he was in the middle of the last great financial scandal in our country."

There have been passing references to McCain's connection to Charles Keating, the financier and real estate mogul who operated from McCain's home state, in dozens of newspaper articles from recent months, but little in depth examination of their relationship.

McCain participated in a 1987 meeting with four other senators who pressured federal regulators to forestal a takeover of Lincoln Savings and Loan, a subsidiary of Keating's American Continental Corp.

Alter notes that even after barely savaging his political career following the Keating Five scandal, McCain continued to back the same kinds of deregulatory policies that led to the savings & loan collapse in the first place.

"He moved forward on campaign finance reform after being caught in that scandal but did nothing -- nothing -- to try to prevent another savings & loan crisis from happening down the road," Alter said. "He was missing in action when it came to even learning the basic lessons of a scandal that he said taught him all kinds of things that he would never forget."

Earlier in the broadcast, Alter noted that McCain supported a 1999 law sponsored by his campaign adviser Phil Gramm that deregulated Wall Street.

"All that it did was turn the big casino into an even bigger casino in a very, very unhealthy way," Alter said. "There is no record of him voting for a regulation, increased regulation, going all the way back to the 1980s when he came to Congress."

The McCain campaign's current efforts to sell him as a champion of economic regulation are little more than a sham built on some linguistic trickery, the columnist said.

"He's trying to confuse us ... on two words: reformer and regulator," Alter said. "He thinks that if he says reformer enough, people will believe that he also had faith in regulation."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast September 22, 2008.

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