Friday, May 09, 2008


John "Flip-flopper" McCain still Hugging Bush

McCain’s Vote in 2000 Is Revived in a Ruckus

WASHINGTON — Did Senator John McCain not vote for George W. Bush in 2000?

That question has kicked up a minor ruckus in political circles this week as Arianna Huffington and the McCain campaign have traded he-said, she-said barbs.

On her Huffington Post Web site on Monday, Ms. Huffington, the liberal blogger, said she had heard Mr. McCain say at a Los Angeles dinner party shortly after the 2000 election that he had not voted for the president he has now publicly embraced in his own quest for the White House. The McCain campaign swiftly quashed the account and said Ms. Huffington had a book to promote and would make anything up.

“She’s a flake and a poser and an attention-seeking diva,” Mark Salter, one of Mr. McCain’s closest aides, told The Washington Post.

Now two other guests at the same dinner, given by the actress Candice Bergen, at her home in Beverly Hills, say they heard much the same thing as Ms. Huffington. Both of them, the former “West Wing” actors Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff, were asked by Ms. Huffington to speak to The New York Times. Mr. Whitford said he would be supporting the Democratic nominee and had donated to Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama; Mr. Schiff is supporting Mr. Obama.

Mr. Whitford, who played Josh Lyman, the deputy White House chief of staff on the NBC series, said in a telephone interview on Thursday that he was sitting across from Mr. McCain and next to Ms. Huffington at the small dinner and that he was startled to hear the senator sharply criticize Mr. Bush. The senator has long blamed the Bush campaign for smear tactics against his family in the 2000 South Carolina primary, but by the end of the campaign Mr. McCain was publicly supporting his rival.

“McCain was just sort of going off on how much he disliked Bush and the horrible things that the Bush campaign had done to his family in South Carolina, and his exasperation with Bush about his ridiculous tax cuts and he really wanted to talk to him about it, but he said the guy doesn’t have the concentration, and you talk for 10 minutes and then the guy wants to talk about baseball,” Mr. Whitford said.

Another guest then asked Mr. McCain, Mr. Whitford recalled, whether he had voted for Mr. Bush. “And he put his finger in front of his mouth and mouthed, ‘No way,’ ” Mr. Whitford said.

Mr. Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler, the White House communications director on “The West Wing,” said he was listening to Mr. McCain from the other of the two tables in the room.

“Someone asked, ‘What do you think of Bush?’ ” Mr. Schiff recalled. “My recollection, and I have to qualify this, because I’m not 100 percent sure he used this word, but my recollection is that McCain said that Bush was dangerous and he didn’t trust him. Then this person said, ‘Why did you support him?’ And McCain said, ‘It was my obligation as a Republican to support the Republican candidate.’ And the person said, ‘Did you vote for him?’ And McCain said, ‘No.’ ”

Ms. Huffington said in her Monday blog posting that Cindy McCain, Mr. McCain’s wife, who was also at the dinner, told her that she had cast a write-in vote for her husband in 2000.

On Thursday, Mr. Salter denied the accounts of the two actors, saying, “He voted for George Bush; I know it for dead certitude.”

As for Mr. Whitford and Mr. Schiff, Mr. Salter said, “I know neither actor, but I assume they were acting.”

On Thursday night, Mr. McCain also denied Ms. Huffington’s assertion. “It’s totally false,” he told Bill O’Reilly of Fox News.

Ms. Huffington, a former Republican, said that she chose to speak out now because she felt Mr. McCain had abandoned his principles in embracing Mr. Bush and that the news media were giving him a free pass.

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