As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Old Distract And Dodge

The financial system is a mess. We're about to spend trillions, plural, on paying off super-wealthy executives who made terrible decisions. This is the result of nonexistent oversight and deregulation as well as a policy of expanding inequality and stagnating wage growth, all of which has been championed by John McCain and the Republicans for decades. And Barack Obama knows it.

[McCain] said that he is calling for the firing of the Security and Exchange Commissioner. Well I think that is all fine and good, but here is what I say: In 47 days, you can fire the whole Trickle-Down, On-Your-Own, Look-the-Other-Way crowd in Washington who has led us down this disastrous path. Don’t just get rid of one guy, get rid of this administration, get rid of this philosophy, get rid of the do-nothing approach to problems and put someone in there who is going to fight for you.

So what is John McCain to do? Take Karl Rove's advice and lie his head off.

A day before the Arizona Republican began criticizing Barack Obama for taking economic advice from former Fannie Mae executive Frank Raines - a dubious claim that was challenged even by the source who first reported it - the former Bush strategist urged McCain to do just that.

During an appearance on Hannity and Colmes on Wednesday, Rove outlined what he thought would be the best counterattack for McCain to launch the opposition's way: mainly, tie the current financial and housing market crisis to the Democrats and play guilt by association with Obama.

"I do think that McCain and Palin ought to identify that the source of this contagion, the thing that started these dominos going down was the misbehavior of Fannie and Freddie, who I would remind you are the biggest part of the bailouts," he said. Earlier in the program, he had specifically brought up Raines' name in this context.

A day later, McCain echoed Rove's advice. On Thursday evening, the Senator's campaign released an advertisement declaring that Frank Raines was an Obama economic adviser. "Shocking," declared the ad, citing the mismanagement that occurred under Raines' reign, as well as his large compensation package. Shocking, indeed. The Associated Press and other news outlets reported hours later that the claim was not honest. Raines had even told a senior McCain aide, in a private email, that he was not an Obama adviser.

Nevertheless, Rove's charge made its way into Friday's speech as well, where McCain criticized Obama again for turning to Raines, but also for initially tasking Jim Johnson, another former Fannie CEO, with heading his vice presidential search committee.

It's pointless to start arguing about how McCain has Fannie and Freddie lobbyists on his staff too, far more than Obama, but OK, let's go ahead anyway.

He is, without a hint of shame, attacking Obama for having connections with two former Fannie Mae executives. At the same time, one of McCain's top policy advisors, Charlie Black, was lobbyist for Freddie Mac for 10 years, while his campaign manager, Rick Davis, lobbied to help Fannie and Freddie steer clear of additional federal regulations (which, obviously, would have been pretty helpful in retrospect).

But wait, there's more. Tom Loeffler, who served as McCain's campaign co-chairman, also lobbied for Fannie Mae. Aquiles Suarez, a McCain economic advisor, was a Fannie Mae executive. Dan Crippen, a McCain advisor who helped craft the campaign's health-care policy, lobbied for Fannie Mae (and Merrill Lynch). Arthur B. Culvahouse, who helped lead McCain's VP search committee, also lobbied for Fannie Mae. In all, McCain has 19 people who are either advisors or fundraisers who lobbied for either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

And voters are supposed to be outraged because of Obama's connections to Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson? Why would McCain even start on this subject at all, making the argument that ties to Fannie/Freddie are scandalous, given his own associations?

The point is that this is a dodge. Fannie and Freddie's problems are the result of a larger inattention to the practice of letting anyone with a pulse have a mortgage, and then banks leveraging themselves to the eyeballs to gamble on these people. McCain is vulnerable on the economy and he expects people not to know the intricacies of this byzantine crisis, so he's lying. Again.

What's more, it's a distraction. Instead of having an argument on how we got here and what needs to be done to get us back on our feet, we get inscrutable attacks like this:

My friends, this is the problem in Washington. People like Senator Obama have been too busy gaming the system and haven't ever done a thing to challenge the system. That isn't country first, that's Obama first.

Does anyone know what he's talking about? Gaming the system?

This is the classic Chewbacca defense, a distraction to keep people off balance. At this point, it's McCain's only chance of winning the election. I don't think Obama will bite.

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