McCain made no secret of his motives: "It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me," he fumed in an August interview, referring to the 2000 South Carolina primary, when Bush supporters had spread a notorious rumor that McCain had fathered a black child. McCain had lost the state, and his 2000 candidacy lost its momentum.
But, these days, McCain seems to have achieved a Zen-like peace with the past. After all, last March his presidential exploratory committee hired Terry Nelson. As national political director for George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, where he managed the much-admired (and muchenvied) get-out-the-vote effort, Nelson is a certifiable catch. But he also regularly produces--right down to the racial undertones--the kind of campaign hatchetry that used to make McCain, by his own admission, "really angry." Nelson hasn't exactly given up his old tactics since boarding the Straight Talk Express, either: In September, The Washington Post reported that the Republican National Committee (RNC) had enlisted Nelson to run an ad campaign that would present the "best of the worst" in opposition research. He didn't disappoint. A few weeks later, Nelson's operation produced a now-infamous ad targeting Tennessee senatorial candidate Harold Ford Jr. The spot featured a scantily clad white woman reporting that she met Ford, who is black, at "the Playboy party" and urging him to give her a call. The fallout was bad enough that no less an ethical paragon than Wal-Mart, which also had a contract with Nelson, cut its ties with the consultant soon after the ad's release.
Terry Nelson: too sleazy for Wal-Mart, just what McCain is looking for.