"Doesn't anybody out there know how to play this game?" (This is the Friday column, written partly in angry and partly in sorrow)
The Hagee endorsement is a disaster of moderate proportions. The resignation of five lobbyist staff members is also a disaster. I have raised questions about what kind of advice McCain is getting from his staffers, who include too many lobbyists and, apparently, too few people who are willing to give the Senator their own "straight talk."
I regard the Senator as one of the most honorable men ever to run for President. He is an authentic American hero, but there are mistakes being made in this campaign that are unnecessary. Having people on the staff who are lobbyists for the Burmese junta is almost suicidal.
The lobbyists must go, and that includes the talented campaign manager, Rick Davis. They are all lightning rods for the opposition. Surely there are enough non-lobbyists around to run a presidential campaign. The Senator needs to find them -- and quickly.
The Campaign staffers did John McCain no favors by recommending that he denounce the North Carolina GOP's anti-Obama ad. He admitted he never saw the commercial. And his staff-generated criticism of it fueled anger among some of the same conservatives he was trying (very unsuccessfully) to pick up with the ill-considered Hagee endorsement.
His staff should have warned him that Pastor Hagee was radioactive, and apparently they didn't. So, exactly what good are they?
Obama is going to beat the Senator about the head-and-shoulders on the issue of lobbyists. He is going to say that if John can't manage his staff how can he manage the country. And our reply is going to be . . . what?
As for Hagee, the media will portray him as John McCain's "Reverend Wright." Oops, there goes the Wright-issue as an albatross around Obama's neck. (This afternoon Obama did exactly that.)
The campaign blunders have to stop. And the staffers who are making them have to go.
There are people out there who could help McCain greatly. One of them is my friend from Oklahoma, Sharon Caliendo. One reason she's a friend is that she is one of the best political operatives in the country. Another is the brilliant 21-year-old who is primarily responsible for the national admiration for Gov. Sarah Palin. These people are dedicated to the election of John McCain, and they have no baggage.
I'm fairly certain the Senator has not heard of these people. But they've never been on "K Street," and if they make mistakes, they're small ones. The Senator needs some pillars of integrity on his staff.
The most important quality any staffer possesses is his or her ability to tell the unvarnished truth to the candidate. This is a very bad week for John McCain.
Additional Comments: I've had a lot of experience dealing with lobbyists, especially ones associated with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (now called "PhaRMa"), but also with lobbyists for Phillips Petroleum, Gulf Oil, and other companies. In general, I don't like lobbyists. They make a great deal of money, but gernally has too small a conscience. Lobbyists usually care a lot more about money than they do people.
Okay, two of McCain's staffers had to leave because they were representing the government (i.e., the junta) that controls Myanmar, formerly called Burma. Exactly what kind of people would lobby for a despicable government like the one in Burma, which is currently denying aid to people whose lives are slipping away.
Really, are they people a man like John McCain would really want on his campaign staff? Are they people he could trust? Would they sell him out if a better offer came their way?
I can't imagine what John McCain and his campaign manager had in mind.