For all of the excellent investigative reporting that went into The New York Times' piece on John McCain and gambling, a major question on the subject remains unanswered.
Why did McCain hide an e-mail that proved Alabama Governor Bob Riley had direct connections to Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling scheme and what does that say about a potential McCain presidency?
While we are at it, let's consider another question: How did McCain's actions affect Alabama politics over the past six years or so?
The McCain/Riley question arose back in February, thanks to some serious digging by Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein.
The mainstream media has mostly ignored the question of why McCain would protect one of his stalwart Republican buddies. And the Times' piece, unfortunately, did not address the Riley question either.
But the Times might have indirectly shined some light on the subject. In investigating the Abramoff affair while head of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, McCain appears to have turned the inquiry into a personal vendetta, the Times reports. Republicans such as Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, whom McCain partially blamed for costing him the South Carolina primary in 2000, took serious heat from the committee. Riley, who has been a consistent McCain supporter, had his questionable connections swept under the table.
That kind of vindictiveness and "selective prosecution" indicates a John McCain presidency might be just as bad as the George W. Bush presidency has been.
And imagine the impact McCain's coverup has had on Alabama politics. If Riley's ties to Abramoff had been reported prior to the 2002 Riley/Don Siegelman gubernatorial race, Riley's chances of winning would have been hampered. And that almost certainly would have thrown a wrench into GOP plans to target Siegelman for a federal prosecution.
As for the broader issue of McCain and gambling, the Democratic National Committee plans to take full advantage of the Times' expose. The following DNC ad will be hitting the airwaves today:
Will the McCain-Riley story develop legs? It certainly would make a strong followup by The New York Times. Perhaps Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC will tackle the subject. They have addressed it once before, starting at the 3:18 mark on the following video clip: