If John McCain and his campaign want to play the guilt by association card, the Dems just might have them beat. Sure, Barack Obama palled around with terrorists, but McCain is hiring Saddam Hussein's cronies! It's true! Investigative reporter Murray Waas reports that the guy hired to lead McCain's presidential transition team (what a wonderful job! huge salary and you don't have to do anything) is a lobbyist who once helped lobby for the Iraqi dictator back in the 1990s. It is a long and complicated story but the gist is that McCain's guy worked with two other lobbyists who later pleaded guilty to acting as unregistered agents of Hussein's government and Timmons pretended he didn't know what they were doing but he totally did. So therefore McCain gassed his own people and we need to invade him ASAP. [HuffPo]
The story we're about to bring you is sad on so many levels. Well, two levels. First, it illustrates the disappointing and kind of disgusting decline of a legendary civil rights institution, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), former home of Martin Luther King, Jr. Second, it shows what a farce half of the things you see on editorial pages are, if they come from public figures. We'll give you a condensed version of this ongoing media vs. advocacy group vs. PR firm controversy-as you read it, ask yourself whether MLK would have found himself caught up in this crap. Charles Steele, Jr., president of the SCLC, wrote an editorial which ran in several southern newspapers. The editorial was against upcoming legislation that would limit credit card fees-a bill favored by retailers (which would save money) but not by credit card companies (which would lose money in fees). Here's the problem: Steele didn't write the editorial. A PR firm working for the credit card companies contracted a third party to write it, and it somehow got submitted to the papers without getting approved by Steele. Fucked up, right? It's obviously a huge mistake by the PR firm. It makes the papers look foolish for running an editorial that the "author" hadn't even seen. And, of course, nobody wants to wake up one day and read something in the paper with their name on it that they've never seen. But Steele and the SCLC aren't heroic in this. Check out their main complaint:
Should menthol cigarettes be banned? From a public health standpoint, shit yea. It would be best for all of us if the only cigarettes available were unattractively packaged, harsh-tasting, and unwieldy. As a Kool smoker, though, I have mixed feelings. You know who else does? Members of the Congressional Black Caucus who receive bundles of cash from the tobacco industry! The fact that "75 percent of black smokers choose mentholated brands" means that the current battle over whether or not to ban them goes to issues even deeper than their sweet, sweet mentholated taste. Things at stake: billions of dollars in revenue, hundreds of millions in marketing campaigns, racial tension, and how happy cigarette companies are to kill you in exchange for money! The current bill in Congress would ban "flavored" cigarettes, but exempt menthols. The Black Caucus is an important player because they stand for the black community—the most enthusiastic consumers of menthols—and they've been wooed big time by tobacco companies.
As soon as you see an op-ed which begins, "As the owner of one of the 25th largest public relations agencies in the U.S.," you should immediately guess that it's an opus by none other than language-challenged sock puppeteer and unapologetically incompetent superflack Ronn [sic] Torossian, head of 5WPR. "Let's begin with the basics: Bribery is unacceptable, yet for a democracy or civilized government, it is wholly abhorrent," writes Ronn. Please explain, sir!