Another take on McCain-Iseman

It’s perfectly plausible that they were flirting but nothing more.

A female acquaintance who knows her way around Washington has a different take on the McCain/Iseman story, one which rings true to me:

It is equally plausible that the McCain-Iseman relationship played out differently: Iseman has a job to do so she cozys up to the Senator, they have a few drinks with a few telecomm guys. They get to know each other and like each other (think Hillary and McCain drinking vodka together and deciding the other is not so bad) &#8212 he likes having a cute young lady around who fawns over him, she likes the access.

Now she’s found her “in” and exploits it. He continues to like having her around. Both know theres a flirty kind of thing going on but nothing actually ever happens. She hooks him up with people she knows and the beat goes on.

The staff, however, have a different view. They don’t care what the boss is actually doing, they’re worried about appearance. So they make their move and get her out of the picture. This is problematic for her because access is what keeps her bosses happy. They want to know why they had him on a jet last week and this week she can’t go to the office.

I say this because having been a single woman in DC, there is often the worry that when you hang out with older men in the business that people will think Something Is Going On…when in fact, a single girl trying to work the system in DC knows well that the fastest way to destroy your career (and his) is to have an affair with one of these guys. So instead, it just doesn’t come up, but you still go out for drinks and hang out.

I’m just really concerned about automatically attacking a young woman who is successful (albeit in a shady industry) for doing her job, which is to get close to these guys. Now true, perhaps her intellect should be driving this equation, but she probably made the decision that she’ll play the cards she’s dealt. It’s her brain that will get her through the situation, but if her brain in a cute dress is what gets her there, so be it. She has a job to do. This is the system that needs to be attacked, rather than attacking every single female blonde lobbyist in town for being a vamp and determining that they must be sleeping with the guy.

Again, I think every woman who’s worked with/for/around powerful men in this town has been on guard for it. Even when they’re not slimy, people talk and it can get ugly. That and most women know that if he’s a big powerful man, it’s usually you who will be taken out, not him. so you need to watch your back.

Iseman clearly didn’t do herself any favors by bragging about it. She exploited her relationship–whatever it was–with McCain for business purposes…which makes her, well, a pretty damn good lobbyist by DC standards. For that, she should be attacked. But we need to be careful about how much we attack close business relationships between a man and a woman automatically being determined to be sexual.

That’s all I’m sayin.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: