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Monday, June 9, 2008

GOP Insiders Worry About McCain's Chances

For four months John McCain had a clear field while Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were at each other's throats. Given the opportunity, the Arizona Senator failed to define the debate in favorable terms, spending much of the valuable primary months defending himself on charges that his campaign staff was top heavy with lobbyists.

Conversely, McCain has so far eluded the anti-Republican tidal wave that threatens to sweep away the party's candidates at every level, from county councils to the U.S. Senate. Amid the early wreckage -- GOP partisan identification in the tank, three defeats in rock-solid GOP House districts, and the National Republican Senatorial and Congressional Committees scratching for cash -- McCain stands competitive with Obama in national polls, running just 2.5 points behind.

The McCain campaign to date lends itself to contradictory assessments. The odds makers are leaning decisively in Obama's favor but McCain is not out of the running.

Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, has posted a PowerPoint study asserting that McCain currently hold slight leads in Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Nevada, and that Ohio is "a dead heat" and that Pennsylvania could go Republican. "This is a very good position for our campaign to be in," Davis contends

In fact, the survey data is not as favorable as Davis claims - Obama leads in all five of the most recent Pennsylvania polls by an average of 5.8 points, and he leads in Wisconsin by 2 points. Polling in the 19 states identified by RealClearPolitics as battlegrounds shows Obama in a better position than McCain, ahead in such Bush '04 states as Colorado and Iowa, and running very close in Virginia, New Mexico and Nevada.

In addition, the data on RealClearPolitics dispute another of Davis' claims --- that McCain has stronger favorable/unfavorable ratings than Obama. Instead, the recent average for McCain is 47.3 favorable to 40.8 unfavorable, or a +6.5; for Obama, it's 50.3 to 38.5, or +11.8 .

In not-for-attribution interviews, a number of Republicans were neither optimistic about his chances nor positive in their assessment of his campaign so far.

"I think we've got a world of problems," said one Republican strategist with extensive experience in presidential campaigns. He said this came home to him with a thud when he watched Obama and McCain give speeches last Tuesday, with the Democrat speaking before "20,000 screaming fans, while John McCain looked every bit of his 72 years" in a speech televised from New Orleans. This Republican cited the liberal blogger Atrios' description of McCain's speech with a green backdrop that made McCain "look like the cottage cheese in a lime Jell-O salad."

For McCain to stand a chance of winning, the operative contended, the campaign, the Republican National Committee, or an independent group will have to finance sustained negative ads developing a broad assault on Obama's credibility as a national leader at a time of terrorist threat. McCain, however, has gone out of his way to aggressively discourage such activity, the operative pointed out, which, he argued, may kill McCain's chances.

Another strategist with similar presidential experience said "McCain has not claimed the maverick ground that should be his. He has not seized the mantle of 'change' and reform that he could own by going to Washington and saying, 'you know me. You know I've been a reformer all my life. Now, here's how I am going to change Washington if you elect me president.' And he has not taken economic turf. He has not explained how he is going to grow, not Washington, as the Democrats plan, but this economy to meet the challenges of global competition."

Earlier this year, Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, wrote:

McCain is an America nationalist and progressive reformer in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, but the real consistent line throughout his career is a belief in his own righteousness. This can lead him to great prescience, as on the surge; foolhardy lack of proportion, as on his crusade for campaign-finance reform; and party-splitting, self-destructive stubbornness, as on immigration reform. If Republicans pick him, he won't be the safe, known quantity they usually look for in a next-in-line nominee, but a go-it-alone politician, unpredictable except for the courage and irascibility he'll bring to whatever he does.

Asked what he thinks of the McCain campaign so far, Lowry replied:

I'd say middling. But he's always going to have an enthusiasm, money, and charisma gap. The question is whether he can make up what might well be a solid Obama lead throughout the summer in the fall when people really focus on Obama... Probably the most important development in this period was McCain's embrace of the theme of reform, which I hope won't be jettisoned amid the critical reviews of the delivery and presentation of his New Orleans speech.

Tom Mann of the Brookings Institution argues that "McCain continues to embrace Bush policies on the most important issues, relying on a reputation for independence and moderation that could be lost in the heat of battle with Obama and the Democrats.... At the end of this long interlude, the only rationale for his election that has emerged is that Obama cannot be trusted to lead the country at a time of great danger because he is too inexperienced, naïve, liberal, elitist, and out of touch with American values. 'Elect me because the other guy is worse.' Not much of an argument in the face of gale-force winds blowing against the Republican Party."

Along similar lines, Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute, questioned whether McCain and his aides have "spent enough time and effort developing themes for why he should be president, not just why Obama should not-- especially themes that address the deep-seated anxiety voters feel that goes beyond current economic conditions."

Arch-conservative Bay Buchanan suggested that it may not matter what McCain does. Writing in Human Events on June 4, she declared:

In reality there is only one candidate. Barack Obama. In November he will win or he will lose. John McCain is relevant only in so far as he is not Barack Obama. The Senator from Arizona is incapable of energizing his party, brings no new people to the polls, and has a personality that is best kept under wraps.

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Brutal

This anti-McCain video, put together in February by a Ron Paul supporter, is just brutal. Some of it is a little off the beaten track, but up to the 7 minute mark, it is devastating, especially starting at the 2:30 mark.

Thanks to reader SQ for sending it in.

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Senator Graham: McCain's Policies Would "Absolutely" Be An Extension Of Bush's (VIDEO)

Senator John McCain has aggressively tried to distance himself from Bush in an effort to avoid being tagged by Democrats as running for Bush's third term. However, as Think Progress notes, McCain's chief surrogate, Senator Lindsey Graham, did not adhere to that message during his appearance on ABC's This Week, with George Stephanopoulos.

Stephanopoulos asked Sen. Graham if McCain's tax and healthcare policies are essentially "an extension or maybe an enhancement of the Bush policies." Sen. Graham answered, "Yeah, absolutely."

[WATCH]

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One Historic Night, Two Americas

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Frank Rich

WHEN Barack Obama achieved his historic victory on Tuesday night, the battle was joined between two Americas. Not John Edwards’s two Americas, divided between rich and poor. Not the Americas split by race, gender, party or ideology. What looms instead is an epic showdown between two wildly different visions of the country, from the ground up.

On one side stands Mr. Obama’s resolutely cheerful embrace of the future. His vision is inseparable from his identity, both as a rookie with a slim Washington résumé and as a black American whose triumph was regarded as improbable by voters of all races only months ago. On the other is John McCain’s promise of a wise warrior’s vigilant conservation of the past. His vision, too, is inseparable from his identity — as a government lifer who has spent his entire career in service, whether in the Navy or Washington.

Given the dividing line separating the two Americas of 2008, a ticket uniting Mr. McCain and Hillary Clinton might actually be a better fit than the Obama-Clinton “dream ticket,” despite their differences on the issues. Never was this more evident than Tuesday night, when Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain both completely misread a one-of-a-kind historical moment as they tried to cling to the prerogatives of the 20th century’s old guard.

All presidential candidates, Mr. Obama certainly included, are egomaniacs. But Washington’s faith in hierarchical status adds a thick layer of pomposity to politicians who linger there too long. Mrs. Clinton referred to herself by the first-person pronoun 64 times in her speech, and Mr. McCain did so 60 times in his. Mr. Obama settled for 30.

Remarkably, neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. McCain had the grace to offer a salute to Mr. Obama’s epochal political breakthrough, which reverberated so powerfully across the country and throughout the world. By being so small and ungenerous, they made him look taller. Their inability to pivot even briefly from partisan self-interest could not be a more telling symptom of the dysfunctional Washington culture Mr. Obama aspires to mend.

Yet even as the two establishment candidates huffed and puffed to assert their authority, they seemed terrified by Mr. Obama’s insurgency, as if it were the plague in Edgar Allan Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” Mrs. Clinton held her nonconcession speech in a Manhattan bunker, banishing cellphone reception and television monitors carrying the news of Mr. Obama’s clinching of the nomination. Mr. McCain, laboring under the misapprehension that he was wittily skewering his opponent, compulsively invoked the Obama-patented mantra of “change” 33 times in his speech.

Mr. McCain only reminded voters that he, like Mrs. Clinton, thinks that change is nothing more than a marketing gimmick. He has no idea what it means. “No matter who wins this election, the direction of this country is going to change dramatically,” he said on Tuesday. He then grimly regurgitated Goldwater and Reagan government-bashing talking points from the 1960s and ’70s even as he presumed to accuse Mr. Obama of looking “to the 1960s and ’70s for answers.”

Mr. Obama is a liberal, but it’s not your boomer parents’ liberalism that is at the heart of his appeal. He never rattles off a Clinton laundry list of big federal programs; he supports abortion rights and gay civil rights with a sunny bonhomie that makes the right’s cultural scolds look like rabid mastodons. He is not refighting either side of the domestic civil war over Vietnam that exploded in his hometown of Chicago 40 years ago this summer, long before he arrived there.

He has never deviated from his much-quoted formulation in “The Audacity of Hope,” where he described himself as aloof from “the psychodrama of the baby boom generation” with its “old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago.” His vocabulary is so different from that of Mrs. Clinton and Mr. McCain that they often find it as baffling as a foreign language, even as they try to rip it off.

The selling point of Mr. Obama’s vision of change is not doctrinaire liberalism or Bush-bashing but an inclusiveness that he believes can start to relieve Washington’s gridlock much as it animated his campaign. Some of that inclusiveness is racial, ethnic and generational, in the casual, what’s-the-big-deal manner of post-boomer Americans already swimming in our country’s rapidly expanding demographic pool. Some of it is post-partisan: he acknowledges that Republicans, Ronald Reagan included, can have ideas.

Opponents who dismiss this as wussy naïveté do so at their own risk. They at once call attention to the expiring shelf life of their own Clinton-Bush-vintage panaceas and lull themselves into underestimating Mr. Obama’s political killer instincts.

The Obama forces out-organized the most ruthless machine in Democratic politics because the medium of their campaign mirrored its inclusive message. They empowered adherents in every state rather than depending on a Beltway campaign hierarchy whose mercenary chief strategist kept his day job as chief executive for a corporate P.R. giant. Such viral organization and fund-raising is a seamless fit with bottom-up democracy as it is increasingly practiced in the Facebook-YouTube era, not merely by Americans and not merely by the young.

You could learn a ton about the Clinton campaign’s cultural tone-deafness from its stodgy generic Web site. A similar torpor afflicts JohnMcCain.com, which last week gave its graphics a face-lift that unabashedly mimics BarackObama.com and devoted prime home page real estate to hawking “McCain Golf Gear.” (No joke.) The blogs, video and social networking are static and sparse, the apt reflection of a candidate who repeatedly invokes “I” as he boasts of his humility.

Mr. Obama’s deep-rooted worldliness — in philosophy as well as itinerant background — is his other crucial departure from the McCain template. As more and more Americans feel the pain of spiraling gas prices and lost jobs, they are also coming to recognize, as Mr. Obama does, that the globally reviled American image forged by an endless war in Iraq and its accompanying torture scandals is inflicting economic as well as foreign-policy havoc.

Six out of 10 Americans do want their president to talk to Iran’s president, according to the most-recent Gallup poll. Americans are sick of a national identity defined by arrogant saber-rattling abroad and manipulative fear-mongering at home. Mr. Obama closed his speech on Tuesday by telling Americans they “don’t deserve” another election “that’s governed by fear.” Of the three candidates, he was the only one who did not mention 9/11 that night.

Mr. Obama isn’t flawless. But it’s hard to see him hitching up with Mrs. Clinton, who would contradict his message, unite the right, and pass along her husband’s still unpacked post-presidency baggage. A larger trap for Mr. Obama is his cockiness. His own tendency to preen and to coast could be encouraged by recent events rocking the Straight Talk Express: Mr. McCain is so far proving an exceptionally clumsy candidate prone to accentuating everything that’s out-of-touch about his American vision.

Mr. McCain’s speech in a New Orleans suburb on Tuesday night spawned a cottage industry of ridicule, even among Republicans. The halting delivery, sickly green backdrop and spastic, inappropriate smiles, presumably mandated by some consultant hoping to mask his anger, left the impression that Mr. McCain isn’t yet ready for prime-time radio.

But the substance was even worse than the theatrics. Incredibly, Mr. McCain attacked Mr. Obama for being insufficiently bipartisan while speaking to the most conspicuously partisan audience you can assemble in today’s America: a small, nearly all-white crowd that seconded his attack lines with boorish choruses of boos. On TV, the audience came across as a country-club membership riled by a change in the Sunday brunch menu.

Equally curious was Mr. McCain’s decision to stage this event in Louisiana, a state that is truly safe for the G.O.P. and that he’d last visited less than six weeks earlier. Perhaps he did so because Louisiana’s governor, the 36-year-old Indian-American Bobby Jindal, is the only highly placed nonwhite Republican he could find to lend his campaign an ersatz dash of diversity and youth.

Or perhaps he thought that if he once more returned to the scene of President Bush’s Katrina crime to (belatedly) slam that federal failure, it would fool voters into forgetting his cheerleading for Mr. Bush’s Iraq obsession and economic policies. This time it proved a levee too far. The day after his speech Mr. McCain was caught on the stump misstating and exaggerating his own do-little record after Katrina. Soon the Internet was alight with documentation of what he actually did on the day the hurricane hit land: a let-us-eat-cake photo op with Mr. Bush celebrating his birthday in Arizona.

Anything can happen in politics, and there are five months to go. But Tuesday night’s McCain pratfall — three weeks in the planning by his campaign, according to Fox News — should be a clear indication that Mr. Obama must accept Mr. McCain’s invitation to weekly debates at once. Tomorrow if possible, and, yes, bring on the green!

Mr. Obama must also heed Mr. McCain’s directive that he visit Iraq — as long as he avoids Baghdad markets and hits other foreign capitals on route. When the world gets a firsthand look at the new America Mr. Obama offers as an alternative to Mr. McCain’s truculent stay-the-course, the public pandemonium may make J.F.K.’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” visit to the Berlin Wall look like a warm-up act.

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Blackwater's Private Spies


This past September, the secretive mercenary company Blackwater USA found its name splashed across front pages throughout the world after the company's shooters gunned down seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square. But by early 2008, Blackwater had largely receded from the headlines save for the occasional blip on the media radar sparked by Congressman Henry Waxman's ongoing investigations into its activities. Its forces remained deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and business continued to pour in. In the two weeks directly following Nisour Square, Blackwater signed more than $144 million in contracts with the State Department for "protective services" in Iraq and Afghanistan alone and, over the following weeks and months, won millions more in contracts with other federal entities like the Coast Guard, the Navy and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

Blackwater's Iraq contract was extended in April, but the company is by no means betting the house on its long-term presence there. While the firm is quietly maintaining its Iraq work, it is aggressively pursuing other business opportunities.

In September it was revealed that Blackwater had been "tapped" by the Pentagon's Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office to compete for a share of a five-year, $15 billion budget "to fight terrorists with drug-trade ties." According to the Army Times, the contract "could include antidrug technologies and equipment, special vehicles and aircraft, communications, security training, pilot training, geographic information systems and in-field support." A spokesperson for another company bidding for the work said that "80 percent of the work will be overseas." As Richard Douglas, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, explained, "The fact is, we use Blackwater to do a lot of our training of counternarcotics police in Afghanistan. I have to say that Blackwater has done a very good job."

Such an arrangement could find Blackwater operating in an arena with the godfathers of the war industry, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. It could also see Blackwater expanding into Latin America, joining other private security companies well established in the region. The massive US security company DynCorp is already deployed in Colombia, Bolivia and other countries as part of the "war on drugs." In Colombia alone, US military contractors are receiving nearly half the $630 million in annual US military aid for the country. Just south of the US border, the United States has launched Plan Mexico, a $1.5 billion counternarcotics program. This and similar plans could provide lucrative business opportunities for Blackwater and other companies. "Blackwater USA's enlistment in the drug war," observed journalist John Ross, would be "a direct challenge to its stiffest competitor, DynCorp--up until now, the Dallas-based corporation has locked up 94 percent of all private drug war security contracts." The New York Times reported that the contract could be Blackwater's "biggest job ever."

As populist movements grow stronger in Latin America, threatening US financial interests as well as the standing of right-wing US political allies in the region, the "war on drugs" is becoming an increasingly central part of US counterinsurgency efforts. It allows for more training of foreign security forces through the private sector--away from Congressional oversight--and a deployment of personnel from US war corporations. With US forces stretched thin, sending private security companies to Latin America offers Washington a "small footprint" alternative to the politically and militarily problematic deployment of active-duty US troops. In a January report by the United Nations working group on mercenaries, international investigators found that "an emerging trend in Latin America but also in other regions of the world indicates situations of private security companies protecting transnational extractive corporations whose employees are often involved in suppressing the legitimate social protest of communities and human rights and environmental organizations of the areas where these corporations operate."

If there is one quality that is evident from examining Blackwater's business history, it is the company's ability to take advantage of emerging war and conflict markets. Throughout the decade of Blackwater's existence, its creator, Erik Prince, has aggressively built his empire into a structure paralleling the US national security apparatus. "Prince wants to vault Blackwater into the major leagues of U.S. military contracting, taking advantage of the movement to privatize all kinds of government security," reported the Wall Street Journal shortly after Nisour Square. "The company wants to be a one-stop shop for the U.S. government on missions to which it won't commit American forces. This is a niche with few established competitors."

In addition to providing armed forces for war and conflict zones and a wide range of military and police training services, Blackwater does a robust, multimillion-dollar business through its aviation division. It also has a growing maritime division and other national and international initiatives. Among these, Blackwater is in Japan, where its forces protect the US ballistic missile defense system, which, according to Stars and Stripes, "points high-powered radio waves westward toward mainland Asia to hunt for enemy missiles headed east toward America or its allies." Meanwhile, early this year, Defense News reported, "Blackwater is training members of the Taiwanese National Security Bureau's (NSB's) special protection service, which guards the president. The NSB is responsible for the overall security of the country and was once an instrument of terrorism during the martial law period. Today, according to its Web site, the NSB is responsible for 'national intelligence work, special protective service and unified cryptography.'" Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto reportedly tried to hire Blackwater to protect her as she campaigned for the presidency in 2007. Conflicting reports indicated that either the US State Department or the Pakistani government vetoed the plan. She was assassinated in December.

What could prove to be one of Blackwater's most profitable and enduring enterprises is one of the company's most secretive initiatives--a move into the world of privatized intelligence services. In April 2006, Prince quietly began building Total Intelligence Solutions, which boasts that it "brings CIA-style" services to the open market for Fortune 500 companies. Among its offerings are "surveillance and countersurveillance, deployed intelligence collection, and rapid safeguarding of employees or other key assets."

As the United States finds itself in the midst of the most radical privatization agenda in its history, few areas have seen as dramatic a transformation to privatized services as the world of intelligence. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community," says former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It's outrageous."

Last year R.J. Hillhouse, a blogger who investigates the clandestine world of private contractors and US intelligence, obtained documents from the office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.5 billion in 2000. That means 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is going to private companies. Perhaps it is no surprise, then, that the head of DNI is Mike McConnell, the former chair of the board of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the private intelligence industry's trade association.

Total Intelligence, which opened for business in February 2007, is a fusion of three entities bought up by Prince: the Terrorism Research Center, Technical Defense and The Black Group--Blackwater vice chair Cofer Black's consulting agency. The company's leadership reads like a Who's Who of the CIA's "war on terror" operations after 9/11. In addition to the twenty-eight-year CIA veteran Black, who is chair of Total Intelligence, the company's executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the agency's Directorate of Operations and the second-ranking official in charge of clandestine operations. From 1999 to 2004, Richer was head of the CIA's Near East and South Asia Division, where he ran clandestine operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia. As part of his duties, he was the CIA liaison with Jordan's King Abdullah, a key US ally and Blackwater client, and briefed George W. Bush on the burgeoning Iraqi resistance in its early stages.

Total Intelligence's chief operating officer is Enrique "Ric" Prado, a twenty-four-year CIA veteran and former senior executive officer in the Directorate of Operations. He spent more than a decade working in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center and ten years with the CIA's "paramilitary" Special Operations Group. Prado and Black worked closely at the CIA. Prado also served in Latin America with Jose Rodriguez, who gained infamy late last year after it was revealed that as director of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA he was allegedly responsible for destroying videotapes of interrogations of prisoners, during which "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, were reportedly used. Richer told the New York Times he recalled many conversations with Rodriguez, about the tapes. "He would always say, 'I'm not going to let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do,'" Richer said of his former boss. Before the scandal, there were reports that Blackwater had been "aggressively recruiting" Rodriguez. He has since retired from the CIA.

The leadership of Total Intelligence also includes Craig Johnson, a twenty-seven-year CIA officer who specialized in Central and South America, and Caleb "Cal" Temple, who joined the company straight out of the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he served from 2004 to '06 as chief of the Office of Intelligence Operations in the Joint Intelligence Task Force--Combating Terrorism. According to his Total Intelligence bio, Temple directed the "DIA's 24/7 analytic terrorism target development and other counterterrorism intelligence activities in support of military operations worldwide. He also oversaw 24/7 global counterterrorism indications and warning analysis for the U.S. Defense Department." The company also boasts officials drawn from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.

Total Intelligence is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia. Its "Global Fusion Center," complete with large-screen TVs broadcasting international news channels and computer stations staffed by analysts surfing the web, "operates around the clock every day of the year" and is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorist center, once run by Black. The firm employs at least sixty-five full-time staff--some estimates say it's closer to 100. "Total Intel brings the...skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room," Black said when the company launched. "With a service like this, CEOs and their security personnel will be able to respond to threats quickly and confidently--whether it's determining which city is safest to open a new plant in or working to keep employees out of harm's way after a terrorist attack."

Black insists, "This is a completely legal enterprise. We break no laws. We don't go anywhere near breaking laws. We don't have to." But what services Total Intelligence is providing, and to whom, is shrouded in secrecy. It is clear, though, that the company is leveraging the reputations and inside connections of its executives. "Cofer can open doors," Richer told the Washington Post in 2007. "I can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see. We don't help pay bribes. We do everything within the law, but we can deal with the right minister or person." Black told the paper he and Richer spend a lot of their time traveling. "I am discreet in where I go and who I see. I spend most of my time dealing with senior people in governments, making connections." But it is clear that the existing connections from the former spooks' time at the agency have brought business to Total Intelligence.

Take the case of Jordan. For years, Richer worked closely with King Abdullah, as his CIA liaison. As journalist Ken Silverstein reported, "The CIA has lavishly subsidized Jordan's intelligence service, and has sent millions of dollars in recent years for intelligence training. After Richer retired, sources say, he helped Blackwater land a lucrative deal with the Jordanian government to provide the same sort of training offered by the CIA. Millions of dollars that the CIA 'invested' in Jordan walked out the door with Richer--if this were a movie, it would be a cross between Jerry Maguire and Syriana. 'People [at the agency] are pissed off,' said one source. 'Abdullah still speaks with Richer regularly, and he thinks that's the same thing as talking to us. He thinks Richer is still the man.' Except in this case it's Richer, not his client, yelling 'show me the money.'"

In a 2007 interview on the cable business network CNBC, Black was brought on as an analyst to discuss "investing in Jordan." At no point in the interview was Black identified as working for the Jordanian government. Total Intelligence was described as "a corporate consulting firm that includes investment strategy," while "Ambassador Black" was introduced as "a twenty-eight-year veteran of the CIA," the "top counterterror guy" and "a key planner for the breathtakingly rapid victory of American forces that toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan." Black heaped lavish praise on Jordan and its monarchy. "You have leadership, King Abdullah, His Majesty King Abdullah, who is certainly kind towards investors, very protective," Black said. "Jordan is, in our view, a very good investment. There are some exceptional values there." He said Jordan is in a region where there are "numerous commodities that are being produced and doing well."

With no hint of the brutality behind the exodus, Black argued that the flood of Iraqi refugees fleeing the violence of the US occupation was good for potential investors in Jordan. "We get something like 600, 700,000 Iraqis that have moved from Iraq into Jordan that require cement, furniture, housing and the like. So it is a--it is an island of growth and potential, certainly in that immediate area. So it looks good," he said. "There are opportunities for investment. It is not all bad. Sometimes Americans need to watch a little less TV.... But there is--there is opportunity in everything. That's why you need situation awareness, and that's one of the things that our company does. It provides the kinds of intelligence and insight to provide situational awareness so you can make the best investments."

Black and other Total Intelligence executives have turned their CIA careers, reputations, contacts and connections into business opportunities. What they once did for the US government, they now do for private interests. It is not difficult to imagine clients feeling as though they are essentially hiring the US government to serve their own interests. In 2007 Richer told the Post that now that he is in the private sector, foreign military officials and others are more willing to give him information than they were when he was with the CIA. Richer recalled a conversation with a foreign general during which he was surprised at the potentially "classified" information the general revealed. When Richer asked why the general was giving him the information, he said the general responded, "If I tell it to an embassy official I've created espionage. You're a business partner."

In May, Erik Prince gave a speech in front of his family and supporters in his home state of Michigan. Security was extremely tight, and Blackwater barred cameras and tape recorders from the event. "The idea that we are a secretive facility, and nefarious, is just ridiculous," Prince told the friendly crowd of 750 gathered at the Amway Grand Plaza. In Iraq, Blackwater has banked on the idea that it is a sort of American Express card for the occupation. But for the future, Prince has a different corporate model, as he indicated in his speech. "When you send something overseas, do you use FedEx or the postal service?" he asked.

There are serious problems with this analogy. When you send something by FedEx, you can track your package and account for its whereabouts at all times. You can have your package insured against loss or damage. That has not been the case with Blackwater. The people who foot the sizable bill for its "services" almost never know, until it is too late, what Blackwater is doing, and there are apparently no consequences for Blackwater when things go lethally wrong. "We are essentially a robust temp agency," Prince told his fans in Michigan. He's right about that one. A temp agency serving the most radical privatization agenda in history.

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New forces fraying U.S.-Saudi oil ties

resident Bush watches Prince Nayif ibn Abdulaziz, right, the Saudi interior minister, and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sign an agreement on technological cooperation during a May visit to Saudi Arabia.


Surging prices, along with a weak dollar and an oil-thirsty Asia, have blunted America's leverage with the key oil producer and helped sour the two nations' relationship.

WASHINGTON -- For decades, Saudi Arabia worked with its dominant customer, the United States, to keep world oil markets stable and advance common political goals.

But the surging price of oil, which soared more than $10 a barrel Friday to a record-high $138.54, has made it plain that those days are over. New forces, including a weak dollar and an oil-thirsty Asia, have blunted the United States' leverage and helped sour the two countries' relationship.
As gasoline prices have risen, the White House has unsuccessfully exhorted the Saudis to step up production, and Congress has threatened retaliation. But the situation now is a far cry from the days when the U.S. economy dominated the direction of the petroleum market.

"That gave us leverage," said Greg Priddy, an oil analyst at the Eurasia Group, a New York-based risk assessment firm. "There's certainly a perception that the power equation has changed."

The weakening of the economic relationship comes when the vital U.S.-Saudi security relationship also has been fraying.

In the 1980s, the U.S.-Saudi bond that kept oil prices low was credited with helping weaken the Soviet Union during the waning days of the Cold War. And it helped keep markets stable after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

But the Saudi government has been dismayed by the consequences of the war in Iraq and by what it sees as a weak Bush administration commitment to the Palestinians.

The relationship is shaping up as a political issue for the fall campaign, certainly among congressional candidates and perhaps among presidential candidates.

With a 20-million-barrel-per-day habit, the U.S. remains the world's largest oil customer, even though its daily consumption over the years has dropped from one-third of total daily production to one-fourth.

But the U.S. can no longer guarantee on its own that producers will have the markets they need for their oil. Nor can the Saudis, alone, ramp up production in sufficient amounts to stabilize prices.

China and other Asian nations now use about 17 million barrels a day. That's up more than 20% since 2003, and booming growth is expected to continue.

With the shift in buying power, the Saudis are cultivating important Chinese customers, analysts say. Saudi Arabia recently contributed $50 million for Chinese earthquake relief, and King Abdullah has visited China.

"The relationship is clearly developing rapidly," said Paul J. Saunders, who served in the State Department under President Bush and is executive director of the Nixon Center think tank.

Saunders believes that China may be buying more Saudi oil than the United States in less than a decade. That sets up "a real possibility that China will have more leverage in dealing with Saudi Arabia than we do," he said.

The Saudis helped the United States for years as "doves" within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on the issue of oil prices. They were willing to moderately increase production, fearing that high prices could cause the United States and others to seek alternate supplies or cut consumption, as happened in the 1980s in reaction to the oil price shocks of the 1970s.

But attitudes have been shifting. Many believe the Saudis have grown more interested in conserving their supplies for later generations, and confident that if U.S. consumption drops, the economies of China, India and others will take up the slack.

By the end of 2007, it was also apparent that the Saudis no longer believed they could substantially affect prices by increasing production. Now, Saudi oil experts believe that the price run-up is due to such factors as investor speculation, the weak dollar and limited output from such key producers as Iraq, Iran and Venezuela.

"They see themselves as having lost control of the market," Priddy said.

The weakening of the economic ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia comes when the Saudi government has increasingly sought to distance itself politically from Washington.

Even as the United States has tried to forge a coalition of Persian Gulf states to counter Iran, Saudi officials have grown skeptical about a security alliance with Washington.
Instead, leaders of the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab kingdom worry that the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has weakened their security and fret about the Shiite Muslim domination of Iraq. Stephen Hadley, the national security advisor, recently acknowledged to reporters that the war has been a "stress" on the relationship.

Meanwhile, the Saudis, making use of the added economic clout fueled by soaring oil prices, are trying to forge a new leadership role in the Muslim world. They have participated, if often invisibly, in efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to stabilize Lebanon.
Ordinary Saudis like the idea of their nation's added wealth, as well as the idea that U.S. leaders are coming as supplicants.

Saudis and their Persian Gulf neighbors "feel pretty satisfied," Hady Amr, director of the Brookings Institution's Doha Center, said in an interview from Qatar. "They're relishing their prominence on the world stage."

In mid-May, President Bush went to Saudi Arabia for the second time this year to seek increased oil production, but officials in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, said no large increases were planned. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) criticized Bush in her presidential campaign appearances, saying she found it embarrassing that a sitting president was "begging" the Saudis.

U.S. lawmakers, meanwhile, have proposed various measures to force the Saudis to boost production. One, sponsored by Senate Democrats, threatens withdrawal of a proposed $1.4 billion in pending arms sales.

"We have to shove it in the face of the Saudis and the others in the international criminal cartel," Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.) said May 22 at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He decried Saudi Arabia and other members of OPEC as "bandits."

The Saudis, for their part, have told U.S. officials that they understand that this is an election year, and seem to largely discount the rhetoric. But there also have been hints of indignation that Americans are pressing them.

Even without the passage of punitive legislation this year, diplomatic efforts could suffer if the Saudis react badly to the American outcry, Saunders said. One that could be affected is Bush's insistence on a Mideast peace pact by the time he leaves office in January.

"You couldn't have any real expectation of [a peace deal] if the Saudis are seriously alienated from the U.S.," Saunders said.

paul.richter@latimes.com

Times staff writers Kim Murphy in London and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut contributed to this report.

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Judge’s ban on the use of the word ‘rape’ at trial reflects trend

Tory Bowen
Tory Bowen

It’s the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her.

She was raped.

But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word “rape” in front of a jury. The term “sexual assault” also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word “assailant” to describe the man who allegedly raped her.

The defendant’s presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial trumps Bowen’s right of free speech, said the Lincoln, Neb., judge who issued the order.

“It shouldn’t be up to a judge to tell me whether or not I was raped,” Bowen said. “I should be able to tell the jury in my own words what happened to me.”

Bowen’s case is part of what some prosecutors and victim advocates see as a national trend in sexual assault cases.

“It’s a topic that’s coming up more and more,” said Joshua Marquis, an Oregon prosecutor and a vice president of the National District Attorneys Association. “You’re moving away from what a criminal trial is really about.”

In Jackson County, Senior Judge Gene Martin recently issued a similar order for the trial of a Kansas City man charged with raping a teenager in 2000. Despite the semantic restrictions, the Jackson County jury last week found Ray Slaughter guilty of forcible rape and two counts of forcible sodomy.

Slaughter’s attorney, who requested the pretrial order, declined to comment because she is preparing a motion for new trial. The judge also declined to comment.

Bowen’s case gained national notoriety and drew the attention of free-speech proponents after she filed a lawsuit challenging the judge’s actions as a First Amendment violation. A federal appeals court dismissed the suit, but Bowen’s attorney plans to petition the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although he dismissed her suit, a federal judge said he doubted a jury would be swayed by a woman using the word “rape” instead of some “tortured equivalent.”

“For the life of me, I do not understand why a judge would tell an alleged rape victim that she cannot say she was raped when she testifies in a trial about rape,” wrote U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf.

Wendy J. Murphy, an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law in Boston, is representing Bowen. She said the practice is “absolutely” unconstitutional.

“There’s no law anywhere that allows courts to issue these kinds of orders against private citizens,” Murphy said. “That doesn’t mean judges aren’t doing it.”

Prosecutors may object, but rarely do they have the time and resources to stop a trial midstream to appeal, she said.

But in cases where the defendant’s version of events is pitted against that of the alleged victim, “words are really important,” Marquis said.

“To force a victim to say, ‘when the defendant and I had sexual intercourse’ is just absurd,” he said.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said juries are smart enough to understand that in the adversarial system of justice, the state is going to take one position and the defense is going to take another.

“These are common terms that are used both in and outside the courtroom,” he said. “If someone says something that one side feels is prejudicial, it can be addressed in cross-examination.”

The issue is a discretionary call with judges, said Jackson County Circuit Judge Brian C. Wimes, who did not preside over Slaughter’s trial. Wimes said he typically would not grant a pretrial order limiting certain words, but he would verbally tell the attorneys to avoid using words in a prejudicial or inflammatory way.

“You don’t want to create an unfair environment,” he said.

Those who defend the accused say the determination of whether what happened was rape or consensual sex is up to juries, not witnesses.

“They shouldn’t be able to use the word ‘rape’ as if it is a fact that has been established,” said Jack King, director of public affairs and communications for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “These are loaded words.”

But Bowen says there is nothing fair about allowing the defense to describe what happened as sex and forcing the victim to describe it in the same words, especially when jurors are not told that an order limiting speech is in place.

Bowen was a 21-year-old Nebraska college student in 2004 when, she said, someone incapacitated her with a rape drug. When she awoke, she was being raped, she said.

Though The Star typically does not name rape victims, Bowen agreed to have her name and photo used.

She said it’s hard enough to get up in front of 12 strangers and talk about what happened without having to worry about being found in contempt of court for saying the wrong thing.

“I think it’s unfortunate that I have to turn into a human thesaurus on the stand,” Bowen testified in a pretrial hearing.

Murphy said it’s disturbing that such “censorship orders” are entered almost exclusively in cases involving rape or sexual assault.

“If it’s about defendants’ rights, then why aren’t they used in other cases?” she asked.

Alison Jones-Lockwood with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault said that there is a historical trend of doubting the word of a woman who says she was raped or questioning how she might have done something to put herself at risk.

She attributes that attitude in part to how the crime affects people’s sense of personal safety.

“If it happened to her, it could happen to me,” Jones-Lockwood said.

The jury in Bowen’s case deadlocked after one trial in 2006. The judge declared a mistrial because of pretrial publicity before a second trial in 2007.

Prosecutors dismissed the case before a third trial because of the judge’s orders on what words could be used and limits on evidence, including prior rape allegations against the defendant.

It would have come down to his word against hers, and as Bowen said, “The judge took my words away from me.”

“How can the jury make an educated decision?” she asked.

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Franken wins endorsement for Senate in Minnesota

Confetti falls around former comedian Al Franken after he accepted the Democratic endorsement for U.S. Senate Senate from Minnesota Saturday, June 7, 2008 at the party's state convention in Rochester, Minn. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
AP Photo: Confetti falls around former comedian Al Franken after he accepted the Democratic endorsement for U.S....

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Al Franken won a resounding endorsement for the U.S. Senate on Saturday from Minnesota Democrats, quickly dispatching with concerns about jokes that offended some and promising a tough challenge to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

"To the people of Minnesota, let me say this: I'm not a perfect person," said Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer. "I'm not going to pretend to have all the answers. But I'll tell the truth, I will keep my spine, and I will work for you."

Franken's only competitor, college professor and peace activist Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, withdrew after Franken passed the necessary 60 percent threshold on the first ballot. Nelson-Pallmeyer proposed that delegates unanimously back Franken, putting him over the top.

Franken's show of strength came as something of a surprise after a rocky few weeks in which some Democrats, led by U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, criticized a racy column he wrote for Playboy magazine in 2000 and, earlier this week, joking comments he was reported to have made about rape that were included in a 1995 New York magazine article about "Saturday Night Live."

Rumors flew that Franken's support was collapsing, and that other candidates were considering a late entry into the endorsement stakes. Franken finally tackled the controversy head-on in his nomination speech to delegates, where he said some of the things he said and wrote over 35 years as a writer were "downright offensive."

"I understand that," Franken said. "And I understand that the people of Minnesota deserve a senator who won't say things that make them feel uncomfortable."

Nelson-Pallmeyer said he would work for Franken's election and won't run in the Democratic primary in September, and for now Franken is facing no opposition. But trial attorney Mike Ciresi, who dropped out of the endorsement race several months ago, has said in recent days that he is considering running in the primary.

Republicans have also hammered Franken for months on some of the more outrageous comments and writing from his years as a comedian, as well as problems with his personal finances. They promised to keep up the heat now that he is the chosen Democratic candidate.

Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan attacked Franken as "unqualified, unfit and unprepared to be a United States senator." He said the campaign will employ old Franken material.

"Al Franken wants to wants to talk about Norm Coleman's record. We're not going to be shy about talking about Al Franken's record," Sheehan said.

As he wooed delegates throughout the day, Franken used the Republican assault as a badge of honor and touted himself as someone who can take the fight right back to the GOP.

"The Republicans don't want me to be the nominee," Franken said. "But guess what? Thanks to you, I'm going to be, and guess what? I'm going to beat Norm Coleman by holding him accountable."

On Saturday morning, Franken took a key step in quelling controversy over his past jokes when he earned the endorsement of the feminist caucus of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, as the Democratic Party is known in Minnesota.

Jackie Stevenson, the group's leader, said the caucus was impressed with his direct answers on issues critical to members, including domestic violence. She said Nelson-Pallmeyer had been more vague.

She said the group was willing to look past salacious material from Franken's past that some have considered degrading to women.

"At the time he didn't realize how it would affect him later in life," Stevenson said. "He wouldn't do it again today."

Delegate Mike Zellmer, a 28-year-old retail manager from the Twin Cities suburb of Inver Grove Heights, didn't settle on Franken until recently. He said Franken's war chest, organization and name recognition won him over.

"He can go after Norm Coleman in a way Jack really can't," Zellmer said. Of the controversy surrounding Franken's past, Zellmer said, "I don't think the people of Minnesota will hold it against him."

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The wife U.S. Republican John McCain callously left behind

Now that Hillary Clinton has at last formally withdrawn from the race for the White House, the eyes of America and the world will focus on Barack Obama and his Republican rival Senator John McCain.

While Obama will surely press his credentials as the embodiment of the American dream – a handsome, charismatic young black man who was raised on food stamps by a single mother and who represents his country’s future – McCain will present himself as a selfless, principled war hero whose campaign represents not so much a battle for the presidency of the United States, but a crusade to rescue the nation’s tarnished reputation.

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Forgotten woman: But despite all her problems Carol McCain says she still adores he ex-husband

McCain likes to illustrate his moral fibre by referring to his five years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. And to demonstrate his commitment to family values, the 71-year-old former US Navy pilot pays warm tribute to his beautiful blonde wife, Cindy, with whom he has four children.

But there is another Mrs McCain who casts a ghostly shadow over the Senator’s presidential campaign. She is seldom seen and rarely written about, despite being mother to McCain’s three eldest children.

And yet, had events turned out differently, it would be she, rather than Cindy, who would be vying to be First Lady. She is McCain’s first wife, Carol, who was a famous beauty and a successful swimwear model when they married in 1965.

She was the woman McCain dreamed of during his long incarceration and torture in Vietnam’s infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison and the woman who faithfully stayed at home looking after the children and waiting anxiously for news.

But when McCain returned to America in 1973 to a fanfare of publicity and a handshake from Richard Nixon, he discovered his wife had been disfigured in a terrible car crash three years earlier. Her car had skidded on icy roads into a telegraph pole on Christmas Eve, 1969. Her pelvis and one arm were shattered by the impact and she suffered massive internal injuries.

When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons

had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.

Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self.

Today, she stands at just 5ft4in and still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at 70, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering.

For nearly 30 years, Carol has maintained a dignified silence about the accident, McCain and their divorce. But last week at the bungalow where she now lives at Virginia Beach, a faded seaside resort 200 miles south of Washington, she told The Mail on Sunday how McCain divorced her in 1980 and married Cindy, 18 years his junior and the heir to an Arizona brewing fortune, just one month later.

>>>Who do you want to see as the next US president? Leave your views below...

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Golden couple: John and Cindy McCain at a charity gala in Los Angeles

Carol insists she remains on good terms with her ex-husband, who agreed as part of their divorce settlement to pay her medical costs for life. ‘I have no bitterness,’

she says. ‘My accident is well recorded. I had 23 operations, I am five inches shorter than I used to be and I was in hospital for six months. It was just awful, but it wasn’t the reason for my divorce.

‘My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens...it just does.’

Some of McCain’s acquaintances are less forgiving, however. They portray the politician as a self-centred womaniser who effectively abandoned his crippled wife to ‘play the field’. They accuse him of finally settling on Cindy, a former rodeo beauty queen, for financial reasons.

McCain was then earning little more than £25,000 a year as a naval officer, while his new father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was a multi-millionaire who had impeccable political connections.

He first met Carol in the Fifties while he was at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was a privileged, but rebellious scion of one of America’s most distinguished military dynasties – his father and grandfather were both admirals.

But setting out to have a good time, the young McCain hung out with a group of young officers who called themselves the ‘Bad Bunch’.

His primary interest was women and his conquests ranged from a knife-wielding floozy nicknamed ‘Marie, the Flame of Florida’ to a tobacco heiress.

Carol fell into his fast-living world by accident. She escaped a poor upbringing in Philadelphia to become a successful model, married an Annapolis classmate of McCain’s and had two children – Douglas and Andrew – before renewing what one acquaintance calls ‘an old flirtation’ with McCain.

It seems clear she was bowled over by McCain’s attention at a time when he was becoming bored with his playboy lifestyle.

‘He was 28 and ready to settle down and he loved Carol’s children,’ recalled another Annapolis graduate, Robert Timberg, who wrote The Nightingale’s Song, a bestselling biography of McCain and four other graduates of the academy.

The couple married and McCain adopted Carol’s sons. Their daughter, Sidney, was born a year later, but domesticity was clearly beginning

to bore McCain – the couple were regarded as ‘fixtures on the party circuit’ before McCain requested combat duty in Vietnam at the end of 1966.

He was assigned as a bomber pilot on an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Tonkin.

What follows is the stuff of the McCain legend. He was shot down over Hanoi in October 1967 on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam and was badly beaten by an angry mob when he was pulled, half-drowned from a lake.

war hero John McCain

War hero: McCain with Carol as he arrives back in the US in 1973 after his five years as a PoW in North Vietnam

Over the next five-and-a-half years in the notorious Hoa Loa Prison he was regularly tortured and mistreated.

It was in 1969 that Carol went to spend the Christmas holiday – her third without McCain – at her parents’ home. After dinner, she left to drop off some presents at a friend’s house.

It wasn’t until some hours later that she was discovered, alone and in terrible pain, next to the wreckage of her car. She had been hurled through the windscreen.

After her first series of life-saving operations, Carol was told she may never walk again, but when doctors said they would try to get word to McCain about her injuries, she refused, insisting: ‘He’s got enough problems, I don’t want to tell him.’

H. Ross Perot, a billionaire Texas businessman, future presidential candidate and advocate of prisoners of war, paid for her medical care.

When McCain – his hair turned prematurely white and his body reduced to little more than a skeleton – was released in March 1973, he told reporters he was overjoyed to see Carol again.

But friends say privately he was ‘appalled’ by the change in her appearance. At first, though, he was kind, assuring her: ‘I don’t look so good myself. It’s fine.’

He bought her a bungalow near the sea in Florida and another former PoW helped him to build a railing so she could pull herself over the dunes to the water.

‘I thought, of course, we would live happily ever after,’ says Carol. But as a war hero, McCain was moving in ever-more elevated circles.

Through Ross Perot, he met Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California. A sympathetic Nancy Reagan took Carol under her wing.

But already the McCains’ marriage had begun to fray. ‘John started carousing and running around with women,’ said Robert Timberg.

McCain has acknowledged that he had girlfriends during this time, without going into details. Some friends blame his dissatisfaction with Carol, but others give some credence to her theory of a mid-life crisis.

He was also fiercely ambitious, but it was clear he would never become an admiral like his illustrious father and grandfather and his thoughts were turning to politics.

In 1979 – while still married to Carol – he met Cindy at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Over the next six months he pursued her, flying around the country to see her. Then he began to push to end his marriage.

Carol and her children were devastated. ‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Nancy Reynolds, a former Reagan aide.

‘They never displayed any difficulties between themselves. I know the Reagans were quite shocked because they loved and respected both Carol and John.’

Another friend added: ‘Carol didn’t fight him. She felt her infirmity made her an impediment to him. She justified his actions because of all he had gone through. She used to say, “He just wants to make up for lost time.”’

Indeed, to many in their circle the saddest part of the break-up was Carol’s decision to resign herself to losing a man she says she still adores.

Friends confirm she has remained friends with McCain and backed him in all his campaigns. ‘He was very generous to her in the divorce but of course he could afford to be, since he was marrying Cindy,’ one observed.

McCain transferred the Florida beach house to Carol and gave her the right to live in their jointly-owned townhouse in the Washington suburb of Alexandria. He also agreed to pay her alimony and child support.

A former neighbour says she subsequently sold up in Florida and Washington and moved in 2003 to Virginia Beach. He said: ‘My impression was that she found the new place easier to manage as she still has some difficulties walking.’

Meanwhile McCain moved to Arizona with his new bride immediately after their 1980 marriage. There, his new father-in-law gave him a job and introduced him to local businessmen and political powerbrokers who would smooth his passage to Washington via the House of Representatives and Senate.

And yet despite his popularity as a politician, there are those who won’t forget his treatment of his first wife.

Ted Sampley, who fought with US Special Forces in Vietnam and is now a leading campaigner for veterans’ rights, said: ‘I have been following John McCain’s career for nearly 20 years. I know him personally. There is something wrong with this guy and let me tell you what it is – deceit.

‘When he came home and saw that Carol was not the beauty he left behind, he started running around on her almost right away. Everybody around him knew it.

‘Eventually he met Cindy and she was young and beautiful and very wealthy. At that point McCain just dumped Carol for something he thought was better.

‘This is a guy who makes such a big deal about his character. He has no character. He is a fake. If there was any character in that first marriage, it all belonged to Carol.’

One old friend of the McCains said: ‘Carol always insists she is not bitter, but I think that’s a defence mechanism. She also feels deeply in his debt because in return for her agreement to a divorce, he promised to pay for her medical care for the rest of her life.’

Carol remained resolutely loyal as McCain’s political star rose. She says she agreed to talk to The Mail on Sunday only because she wanted to publicise her support for the man who abandoned her.

Indeed, the old Mercedes that she uses to run errands displays both a disabled badge and a sticker encouraging people to vote for her ex-husband. ‘He’s a good guy,’ she assured us. ‘We are still good friends. He is the best man for president.’

But Ross Perot, who paid her medical bills all those years ago, now believes that both Carol McCain and the American people have been taken in by a man who is unusually slick and cruel – even by the standards of modern politics.

‘McCain is the classic opportunist. He’s always reaching for attention and glory,’ he said.

‘After he came home, Carol walked with a limp. So he threw her over for a poster girl with big money from Arizona. And the rest is history.’

  • Additional reporting by Paul Henderson in Virginia Beach and William Lowther in Washington
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