A new book by liberal writer and political consultant Cliff Schecter lays out a detailed blueprint for how Dems can mine presumed GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain's political and personal past—including already well-documented incidents of his temper—to defeat him in the fall.
But in The Real McCain, scheduled to be released May 1, Schecter, citing unnamed sources, also relates two previously unreported incidents of McCain's allegedly losing his cool. He alleges that in 2006, McCain came to blows with fellow Arizona lawmaker Rep. Rick Renzi during a strategy meeting. The fight was precipitated, according to Schecter's two sources, when Renzi ordered McCain to stop calling him "boy." (McCain ultimately became friendly with Renzi, who has since been indicted on federal corruption charges.)
Schecter also alleges that during McCain's 1992 re-election campaign, he addressed his wife with a vulgarity in the presence of at least three Arizona-based reporters. Those reporters, the author says, are his sources.
The McCain campaign has furiously denied the reports, calling them "fabrications" and "trash." McCain, asked during an appearance today on Fox News whether the alleged Renzi incident was true, replied, "No." Campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker told U.S. News that both stories are "untrue and driven by partisan interests and blind sources."
But the liberal blogosphere—if not mainstream media publications—has been abuzz with the allegations, particularly after they were picked up yesterday by the popular Huffington Post, to which Schecter is an occasional contributor. Nico Pitney, a Huffington Post editor, told U.S. News that "we noted in our report on the book that the story was anonymously sourced; we wanted our readers to be aware of that."
"As with any such reporting—whether it's in the New York Times, a Bob Woodward book, or an account from Cliff Schecter—people have to consider the information critically and make up their own minds," he said.
Schecter, for his part, says he hopes that the bulk of his book, which details McCain's evolving positions over the years on issues ranging from military interventionist policy to tax cuts, doesn't get lost in the hubbub over temper allegations. And he adamantly defends his sourcing: "I'm as comfortable with those facts as with any other fact in my book," he told U.S. News. An effort to arrange to speak with Schecter's sources was unsuccessful, though the author described in some detail the positions held by the sources at the time of the alleged incidents and their whereabouts today.
"I'm an unknown quantity, and the sources in the two stories are unnamed," said Schecter, a senior fellow at Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO. "But they are true." Says Hazelbaker, McCain's spokesperson: "I hope that the Democrats follow the blueprint laid out by Mr. Schecter, as it will almost certainly guarantee John McCain's victory in November. One thing that is absolutely clear is that Americans are sick and tired of this type of gutter politics."
The book, put out by the progressive California-based publisher PoliPointPress, was listed at No. 117 on Amazon's bestseller list this afternoon.