WaPo Tries to Claim Cindy McCain Unethical for Erection of Cell Phone Tower


By: Warner Todd Huston

Apparently the Washington Post thinks it has an ethics violation to hold against Cindy McCain, wife of GOP presidential candidate John McCain. The Post is trying to claim that Cindy McCain somehow illicitly got a portable cell tower delivered to her remote Arizona ranch so that their phones would work there. The truth is, however, the Secret Service ordered up the portable cell tower, not Cindy McCain.

Even the words the Post uses to report the story prove somewhat weasely because, as the Post can’t find any actual wrong doing, the story relies on vague ways of implying wrongdoing without actually saying it. In the end, there doesn’t seem to be much there, there, but I suppose the Post had to justify the money it spent by publishing this non-story anyway.

The story starts right in with the vague verbiage of implied wrong doing. After saying that Cindy McCain sought to improve the cell reception around her “remote 15-acre ranch near Sedona, Ariz” and that she did so “just as her husband launched his presidential bid,” the Post tried to imply that it was all at undue costs. (bold mine)

Over the past year, she offered land for a permanent cell tower, and Verizon Wireless embarked on an expensive public process to meet her needs, hiring contractors and seeking county land-use permits.

“Embarked on an expensive public process”? what can this be but a weasely way to imply that obscene costs are involved here and that maybe, just maybe these obscene costs are done just because Cindy McCain is privileged? But, let us be reminded that this “expensive” cost would have been at the expense of a private corporation. The government is not paying for this. So, if Verizon wanted to build a cell tower for the McCains, isn’t it their right to do so?

This article is also a thinly veiled effort to paint McCain as an elitist. The Post is engaging in class warfare at its worst with this piece. It’s the old she’s-rich-so-she-gets-more-than-you argument.

Still, despite the implied air of privilege the Post is trying to manufacture, it reports that Verizon abandoned the effort as not cost effective. But, this doesn’t placate the Post. It next tried to imply that even the temporary cell tower erected near the ranch by Verizon is not Kosher. And that it was done for Cindy McCain.

Instead, Verizon delivered a portable tower known as a “cell site on wheels” – free of charge – to the McCain property in June, after the Secret Service began inquiring about improving coverage in the area. Such devices are used for providing temporary capacity where coverage is lacking or has been knocked out, in circumstances ranging from the Super Bowl to hurricanes.

The word “instead” implies that Verizon put in this temporary cell tower instead of building the permanent one Cindy McCain wanted, as if this one was put there for Cindy McCain. Why it’s all so unseemly, the Post suggests.

Naturally, the Post found some compliant “experts” to help them drum up these vague charges.

Three telecommunications specialists consulted by The Post said the proposed site covers so few users that it is unlikely to generate enough traffic to justify the investment. Robb Alarcon, an industry specialist who helps plan tower placement, said the proposed location appeared to be a “strategic build,” free-of-charge coverage to high-priority customers. A former Verizon executive vice president, who asked not to be named because he worked for the company, agreed with Alarcon, saying, “It was a VIP kind of thing.”

Yet, despite what the Post and their “experts” tried to imply, Cindy McCain wasn’t the reason Verizon put in the temporary cell tower at all. As Jonathan Martin reports on Politico, the truth is that this temporary tower was erected because the Secret Service requested it so that they would have proper coverage to protect the presidential candidate!

A representative for the Secret Service confirms Verizon’s statement earlier tonight that the company only put in a temporary cell service facility near the McCain ranch in Arizona at the request of the agency.

Even though little seems to be wrong here, the Post assures us that “ethics lawyers” are aghast at this.

Ethics lawyers said Cindy McCain’s dealings with the wireless companies stand out because her husband is a senior member of the Senate commerce committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunication services.

Well, that was all nice and vague, wasn’t it? Notice there was no actual claim of wrong doing? Just this vague notion of how it might “stand out”? Does “stand out” now equate to law breaking?

Then, the Post story fills in space with all sorts of breathless revelations that people working on the McCain campaign as advisers have ties to various communications companies. And then it implies that the Senator is somehow too close to these industries.

But finally, half way through the story, after all this hinting and shadowy implications, we find that Cindy McCain didn’t seem to go through any special channels or backroom deals to engage in getting her cell tower in the first place.

McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers said that the senator is not a regulator and that Cindy McCain received no favors from Verizon or AT&T.

“Mrs. McCain’s staff went through the Web site as any member of the general public would – no string-pulling, no phone calls, no involvement of Senate staff,” Rogers said. “Just because she is married to a senator doesn’t mean she forfeits her right to ask for cell service as any other Verizon customer can.”

Again, it absolutely must be noted here that Verizon decided that there just aren’t enough customers in the “remote area” to justify the permanent cell tower, so in the final analysis, Cindy McCain will NOT get her tower as far as Verizon is concerned. So, all these implications and vague claims that the Post makes results in no special favors granted, no backroom deals made and no cell tower being erected.

Naturally, other Old Media outlets liked the Post’s blinkered take on the story and are taking up the cudgel with which to beat about Cindy McCain’s head. The AP, for instance, tried its hand with one untruthfully titled “Cindy McCain asked and got cell phone coverage.”

Marc Armbinder of The Atlantic tries to stir the anti-Cindy meme, too. He wonders “How much did the tower cost in total? How many total people did it benefit? Does the number of people who benefited comport with the average number of people served by other, similarly-situated towers?” Apparently he didn’t notice that the company has said it isn’t building the towers so the question of how many people it benefits is immaterial.

And CNN’s Political Ticker report, titled “Cindy McCain requested, got cell coverage,” does not report the full truth. CNN ignored the part where it was the Secret Service, not Cindy McCain’s efforts, that eventually got the temporary cell tower erected.

Like I said. There just isn’t any there, there. But the Post sure did its best to make it seem like something is going on.

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