The New York Times Is Not The Baron de Montesquieu
By Pejman Yousefzadeh Posted in 2008 | Smearing And Sliming John McCain — Comments (0) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »
One of the more silly arguments used to show that a certain person has supposedly acted unethically is to say that while said person's actions may have complied with "the letter of the law," they have somehow violated "the spirt" of the law. Mind you, it is entirely possible for someone to comply with the letter of the law while violating the spirit of it, but too often, such an argument is used simply as a desperation ploy. The target of the accusation has not been helpful in giving his/her accuser(s) anything substantial to shoot at so the accuser(s) use the "spirit of the law" claim to find unethical behavior where none may exist.
For an example of this, see this story. It finds that John McCain used a corporate jet owned by a company headed up by his wife. The story acknowledges the following:
The senator was able to fly so inexpensively because the law specifically exempts aircraft owned by a candidate or his family or by a privately held company they control. The Federal Election Commission adopted rules in December to close the loophole -- rules that would have required substantial payments by candidates using family-owned planes -- but the agency soon lost the requisite number of commissioners needed to complete the rule making.
So McCain is playing by the rules. If the FEC wants to change the rules eventually and the votes are there to do so, we can have ourselves a different discussion, but for now, McCain is doing everything by the book. Seeing this, the Times decides to change the rules of the game:
Because that exemption remains, Mr. McCain's campaign was able to use his wife's corporate plane like a charter jet while paying first-class rates, several campaign finance experts said. Several of those experts, however, added that his campaign's actions, while keeping with the letter of law, did not reflect its spirit.
And here is where klaxons ought to go off in the brainpans of discerning folk. I mean, how does one explain this more clearly? The law allows McCain to do what he is doing. There is no "spirit" of the law being violated. And buried further down in the story is a grudging admission by the Times that McCain did not take advantage of other portions of the law that would have ensured that he never would have experienced any kind of financial crisis whatsoever, such as tapping his wife's funds to finance his campaign, the same way that John Kerry did when he ran in 2004 and the same way that Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton did with respect to their own fortunes. Gosh, did McCain respect "the spirit of the law" by refraining from touching his wife's funds or asking her to tap into them, even though he supposedly violated "the spirit of the law" by using a campaign jet entirely in keeping with the law?
I recognize, of course, that it is quite the journalistic scoop to somehow show that Mr. Campaign Finance Reform is not acting in accordance with the ethics behind the laws he has passed and has sought to pass. But really, there is no excuse whatsoever for having written this story. It has no legs. It never had any legs. And no amount of "spirit" will give it any legs.