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CAMPAIGN '08: RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE | UNMENTIONABLES
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Another round in the war against candor

June 24, 2008|Don Frederick

Charlie Black has had his moment of straight talk -- and chances are he's not going to let it happen again.

Fortune magazine, in an article posted online Monday, cited the "startling candor" by the strategist for John McCain in discussing how concerns about national security could offer political dividends for the Arizona senator and presumed GOP presidential nominee.

First, Black described the assassination of Pakistani political leader Benazir Bhutto in late December as an "unfortunate event" -- but one that boosted McCain's stock just before the must-win New Hampshire primary. The candidate's "knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be commander in chief. And it helped us," Black said.

Then the longtime Washington lobbyist went further. Asked what the political ramifications of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil might be for McCain, Black told Fortune, "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him."

That turned out to be too cold a calculation. After a McCain fundraiser in Fresno on Monday, Black was contrite: "I deeply regret the comments -- they were inappropriate. I recognize that John McCain has devoted his entire adult life to protecting his country and placing its security before every other consideration."

McCain, for his part, did what candidates do after a political faux pas. He stressed his lifelong commitment to protecting America. "It's not true," he said of Black's premise.

Barack Obama's campaign played its role too, expressing great umbrage at Black's comment while using it to stress the talking points of the presumed Democratic presidential nominee. Spokesman Bill Burton said, "The fact that John McCain's top advisor says that a terrorist attack on American soil would be a 'big advantage' for their political campaign . . . is exactly the kind of politics that needs to change."

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-- Don Frederick

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Frederick writes for Top of the Ticket, at latimes.com/top oftheticket.

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