Here’s Charles R. Black, a board member of the American Conservative Union, defending John McCain against the New York Times’ smear job yesterday.

I can’t really disagree with much that Black says there. He’s just an awfully unfortunate choice for the McCain campaign to put up as a spokesman on this issue. Yes, McCain may be free from illicit entanglements with lobbyists, but why does he pick a lobbyist to the stars like Charles Black to say so?

A lobbyist can perform no greater favor for a lawmaker than to help get him elected. It is the ultimate political IOU, and it can be cashed in again and again. No other firm holds more of this precious currency than the Washington shop known as Black, Manafort.

Legally, there are two firms. Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, a lobbying operation, represents Bethlehem Steel, the Tobacco Institute, Herbalife, Angolan “Freedom Fighter” Jonas Savimbi and the governments of the Bahamas and the Philippines. Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater, a political-consulting firm, has helped elect such powerful Republican politicians as Senator Phil Gramm of Texas and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jesse Helms.

The political credentials of the partners are imposing. Charles Black, 38, was a top aide to Senator Robert Dole and the senior strategist for President Reagan’s re-election campaign in 1984.

That’s from 1986; the Bahamas case is an interesting one and I know a bit more about it now than Time did then. In the early 1980’s, Colombian drug baron Carlos Lehder had staked out a section of the Bahamas called Norman’s Key as a staging area for running disco dust into Miami. He acquired the tacit permission–even, some say, the protection–of the Pindling administration. When pressure fell on the Bahamas to do something about Norman’s Key, who did the Pindling administration turn to to get the DEA and the Reagan administration to back off? Why, Black, Manafort! They even drafted a memo explaining how they would convince the federal government that the Bahamas was a good soldier in the drug war, a memo which survives in the Congressional Record.*

There’s more; Black was cheerleading for the tobacco lobby, and also dictators Mobutu Sese Seko and Mohammed Siad Barre.

So yeah, the New York Times is lame and McCain’s honor is unstained by this attack. But more importantly, aren’t you so relieved to know that Team McCain–Black, Juan Hernandez, and Richard Armitage–are on the job, lookin’ out for the workin’ man?

So come on, GOP: shut up and fall in line already.

UPDATE Friday Night: More GOP leadership by Grover Norquist.

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*If anyone’s interested I’ll try to snag it and scan it when I’m near a library on Monday.