John McCain’s Brain Trust

by Richard Poe
Sunday, September 3, 2006

3:56 pm Eastern Time

Senator John McCain has been keeping bad company. The New York Times reports that an informal group of advisors has begun gathering around McCain, in anticipation of his expected run for the presidency in 2008.(1) Two names stand out in the group; Richard Armitage and Colin Powell, both outspoken opponents of President Bush’s war policy.(2) Armitage and Powell were recently implicated in the Plamegate affair, raising questions about McCain’s own role in the abortive palace coup.(3)

According to The Times, McCain’s “inner circle” consists of three men. They are:

Richard Davis: Having served as national campaign manager for McCain’s 2000 presidential run, Davis is currently president of the scandal-ridden Reform Institute for Campaign and Election Issues, which McCain founded.(4) The Institute has received funding from George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Davis was formerly a consultant to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2001 campaign.(5)

John Weaver: The chief strategist for McCain’s 2008 presidential run, Weaver is a Democrat. He switched parties in 2002, after Republicans ostracized him for his controversial role in McCain’s 2000 presidential bid. Weaver helped plan Dick Gephardt’s failed run for the presidency and consults for the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee).(6)

Mark Salter: A former speechwriter for McCain, Salter joined the senator’s staff in 1989. He now serves as McCain’s Senate chief of staff. He collaborated with McCain on four books, including Why Courage Matters, Faith of my Fathers, Worth the Fighting For and Character is Destiny(7).

McCain’s foreign policy advisors include:

Colin L. Powell: Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell was appointed Secretary of State by President George W. Bush on January 20, 2001. He resigned on January 23, 2005.(8) The New York Sun reports that Powell and McCain have been close friends for years.(9)

Richard L. Armitage: A special operations veteran of the Vietnam War, with decades-long ties to the intelligence community, Armitage was appointed deputy secretary of state by George W. Bush on March 26, 2003. Armitage resigned on November 16, 2004, the day after his boss Colin Powell resigned as Secretary of State. Like Powell, Armitage opposes Bush’s war policy in Iraq.(10)

Brent Scowcroft: A retired general and former national security adviser to the elder President Bush, Scowcroft opposed the invasion of Iraq in a 2002 Wall Street Journal editorial.(11)

William Kristol: Editor of The Weekly Standard(12)

McCain’s economic advisors include:

Dan L. Crippen: Former director of the Congressional Budget Office (13)

Douglas Holtz-Eakin
Former director of the Congressional Budget Office (14)

Other influential members of McCain’s brain trust include:

John A. Thain: Formerly president and chief operating officer of the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., John Thain became CEO of the New York Stock Exchange on January 15, 2004.(15)

Niall Ferguson: A British-born Harvard University historian, Ferguson defends 19th-century British colonialism and urges the USA to emulate it.(16)

Barry McCaffrey: A former Army general who served in Vietnam and the Gulf War, McCaffery was appointed drug czar (Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy – ONDCP) by President Bill Clinton, serving in that capacity from 1996-2001.(17)

Jon Huntsman Jr.: Current governor of Utah.(18)

Dan Coats: Former Republican U.S. senator from Indiana, and former ambassador to Germany.(19)

James Jay Baker: A former prosecutor and former NRA lobbyist who, in 2002, joined the Federalist Group, a corporate lobbying firm owned by Ogilvy PR Worldwide.(20)

Daniel Schnur: Communications director for McCain’s 2000 presidential race (21)

The Times article mentioned four McCain braintrusters who come from the Bush camp. They are:

Mark McKinnon: Texas political media consultant tied to Bush team

Terry Nelson: Political director of Bush 2004 campaign

Nicolle Wallace: Communications director of Bush 2004 campaign

Wayne L. Berman: Bush fundraiser and Washington lobbyist

F. Philip Handy: Chairman of Jeb Bush’s two gubernatorial races

Sig Rogich: Directed advertising for Bush Sr.’s 1988 and 1992 campaigns

Among those hired to develop Web operations for McCain is Howard Dean’s former webmaster Nicco Mele — a leftwing blogger and campaign finance reform activist, who is founder and CEO of the Web design firm EchoDitto. Mele was an early hero of leftist bloggers, having run the campaign site (via hotlineblog).(22)

Another leftwing blogger, Markos Moulitsas Zuñiga, has accused Mele of a “rabid desire for regulating the blogosphere” — a position which would, in fact, follow naturally from Mele’s enthusiasm for the McCain-Feingold Act.(23)

For more lists of McCain advisors, go here(24) and here.(25)

by Richard Poe
September 3, 2006 03:56 PM ET

Cross-posted from 09.03.06


1. John M. Broder, “McCain Mines Elite of G.O.P. for 2008 Team“, The New York Times, 21 August 2006

2. Jim Lobe, “Washington Goes to War“, Foreign Policy in Focus, 20 August 2002; “Richard Armitage: the Combatant Who Dreamed of Diplomacy“, Voltaire Network (, 8 October 2004; David Frum, “A NEW TEAM“, 16 November 2004; Josh Gerstein, McCain Signals Distance from Bush, Neocons“, The New York Sun, 23 August 2006

3. Kenneth R. Bazinet and James Gordon Meek, “Ex-Deputy Secretary of State New Figure in CIA Leak Probe, The Daily News, 20 May 2006; Michael Isikoff, “The Man Who Said Too Much“, Newsweek, 11:12 a.m. ET 28 August 2006 (, 4 September 2006 (print edition); “End of an Affair“, The Washington Post, 1 September 2006, A20; David Johnston, “New Questions About Inquiry in C.I.A. Leak“, The New York Times, 2 September 2006; Fred Barnes, “The Plamegate Hall of Shame“, The Weekly Standard, Volume 11, Number 48, 11 September 2006

4. Carl Hulse and Anne E. Kornblut, “McCain Allies Seek Reform and the Money to Get It“, The New York Times, 8 March 2005; Edward Morrissey, “Mr. Clean?“, Captain’s Quarters, 8 March 2005; Edward Morrissey, “Inside McCain’s Reform Institute“, Captain’s Quarters, 9 March 2005; Doug Ireland, “John McCain, Hypocrite“, DIRELAND, 9 March 2005; Paul Kane, “McCain Won’t Target Members“, Roll Call, 10 March 2005; Allison Hayward, “McCain `Leaves’ Reform Institute“,, 28 July 2005; Ryan Sager, “The Horse McCain Rode In On“, The New York Post, 5 August 2005; Bradley A. Smith, “John McCain’s War on Political Speech“, Reason, December 2005

5. Richard H. Davis bio,

6. Rich Lowry, “McCainiac Hypocrisy: Meet John Weaver, the Big-Money Consultant Who Hates Big Money“, The National Review Online, 16 August 2001: Franklin Foer, “Opportunism Knocks: How McCain Sold Out“, The New Republic, 30 August 2004 (post date), 6 September 2004 (print date);

7. “Mark Salter“,, last modified 20:38, 1 September 2006.

8. “Colin Powell,, last modified 13:00, 3 September 2006

9. Josh Gerstein, McCain Signals Distance from Bush, Neocons“, The New York Sun, 23 August 2006

10. “Richard L. Armitage“,, last modified 13:05, 3 September 2006

11. “Brent Scowcroft“,, last modified 21:53, 11 July 2006

12. “William Kristol“,, last modified 18:09, 21 August 2006

13. “Dan L. Crippen“,, last modified 19:31, 17 August 2006

14. “Douglas Holtz-Eakin“, Council on Foreign Relations Bio,

15. “John A. Thain“,, last modified 01:36, 28 July 2006

16. “Niall Ferguson“,, last modified 18:16, 30 August 2006

17. “Barry McCaffrey“,, last modified 03:54, 28 August 2006

18. “Jon Huntsman Jr.“,, last modified 00:20, 8 August 2006

19. “Daniel Coats“,, last modified 16:44, 2 September 2006

20. “James Jay Baker“,

21. Daniel Schnur“,, last modified 15:52, 23 August 2006

22. Shira Toeplitz and Marc Ambinder, “Exclusive: McCain’s Web Team. And Nicco Mele.“, (National Journal), 23 August 2006; Matthew Yglesias, “MORE McECCODITTO“, Tapped (The American Prospect), 24 August 2006; nicco, “MCCAIN?“, As If It Matters, 24 August 2006

23. Markos Moulitsas Zuñiga, “Nicco Mele“, DailyKos, 04:35:40 PM PDT, 24 August 2006; Bradley A. Smith, “John McCain’s War on Political Speech“, Reason, December 2005

24. Billy House, “McCain Has a Long, Diverse List of Advisors“, Arizona Republic, 11 August 2006

25. Key People-Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)“, Democracy in Action, updated 30 August 2006

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