Patterico's Pontifications

10/15/2008

John McCain: The Devil You Know

Filed under: 2008 Election — Karl @ 4:47 pm



[Posted by Karl]

The establishment media continues to drive the theme that John McCain needs a game-changer at tonight’s debate.  I find myself in the odd position of agreeing more with Stu Eizenstadt that Presidential debates have historically tended to help the lesser-known opponent for the party out of power at the expense of the better-known candidate of the incumbent party.  Thus, the debates were (absent some monumental gaffe) likely favor to Obama even before the current economic turmoil moved the middle against the GOP.

I tend to doubt that there is a game-changer to be had, let alone that the McCain campaign could come up with one.

However, McCain could use the third debate to frame the final three weeks of his campaign.  The Obama campaign seems to be returning to the theme that McCain is erratic and unsteady.  McCain could make the case that he is in fact The Devil You Know — or simply “tested,” if Maverick is not comfy playing Satan to the Obamessiah. 

It is a strategy that might seem counter-intuitive, given that this year was shaping up as a “change” election, much like those we have had about every 16 years since WWII, long before the current panic in the financial markets.  Some examples may explain my hypothesis.

My main examples of this approach address the economy, which is likely to be the main topic about which voters want to hear.

Regarding the current turmoil in the financial markets, McCain would do well to frame the issue as concisely as the independent ad from Let Freedom Ring, making the point that McCain pushed for regulation of the risky mortgage buying practices at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2006, while Obama was AWOL.  McCain could rhetorically ask, “If Sen. Obama thinks deregulation was the problem, where was he when I was trying to regulate Fannie and Freddie?”  On this issue, McCain can argue that he has a good record, while Obama does not.

If Obama raises the March 2007 letter Obama wrote to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treaury Secretary Henry Paulson, McCain should respond that not only was it too late for the “discussion” Obama sought in 2007, but also that Obama’s letter called for the government to “support independent community-based-organizations to provide counseling and work-out services to prevent foreclosure and preserve homeownership where practical” — which is code for shoveling federal money to ACORN, Obama’s pals in community organizing, who helped fuel the current crisis in the first instance and who are under suspicion of voter registration fraud in a dozen states, primarily battleground states.  As a bonus, McCain could note that at the same time Obama was sending that letter, one of Obama’s top economic advisers was flacking for subprime lending harder than Sen. Chris Dodd.  This is something he should have been doing since Lehman Bros. went under, but better late than never.

McCain should clearly pitch his new tax proposals for middle-class voters.  Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the “town hall” debate was that McCain rolled out that $300 billion mortgage buy-out program in a way that few in the media even noticed in the post-debate analysis.  If the people who have heard the candidates’ stump material time and again did not notice, how many persuadable voters did?  The latest Pew poll shows that people think Obama does a better job at explaining his proposals.  That fail-yuh to communicate causes some to think that Obama is the candidate of low-taxes.

Accordingly, McCain ought to hit Obama with the plumber whom Obama seems so eager to tax, along with Obama’s plan to hike payroll taxes and taxes on small business and investment, noting that Obama’s tax credits are a bait-and-switch scheme, rather than rate cuts.  And he should stress his record on keeping taxes low, in contrast to the 94 votes Obama has cast against low taxes.  On taxes, McCain has the record of being for lower taxes, while Obama has the record of supporting higher taxes.

McCain already made a similar comparison on spending in the first debate.  But he ought to add that when Obama was asked in that debate where he would cut spending, he not only dodged the question, but also answered by listing at least five major spending increases on energy, healthcare, technology, education and infrastructure.  Here again, McCain can argue that he has a record of trying to restrain wasteful federal spending, while Obama does not.

McCain should also stress that he is known for working with Democrats on contentious issues like campaign finance reform, but would also serve to check the excesses of a Democratic Congress led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid. 

In contrast, Obama has by one account the most liberal record in the US Senate, and gives no indication that he would act as a brake on the Pelosi-Reid axis.  Obama told 60 Minutes that, “One of the things I’m good at is getting people in a room with a bunch of different ideas who sometimes violently disagree with each other and finding common ground, and a sense of common direction.”  In reality, Obama’s record is one of working with the GOP only on bills so small or uncontroversial that they pass by unanimous consent or voice vote.  Obama’s record is one of working instead with former terrorist Bill Ayers, organizing radical preachers in Chicago, handing out money to ACORN and picking up the endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America.

It has been a central tenet of McCain’s campaign strategery that McCain is a better ideological match with voters’ ideology than is Obama.  McCain need not dwell on Obama’s lifelong alliances with the radical Left to make the point.  He may need to remind voters that those alliances are part of Obama’s record, which often stands in stark contrast to the McCain record on most issues.  He may need to persuade voters that Obama’s campaign promises often do not jibe with his record, and that high taxes and protectionism will worsen the economy.

–Karl

27 Responses to “John McCain: The Devil You Know”

  1. I wish McCain would say every word of this. Palin could say it but, for some reason, McCain hasn’t been able to … yet. Maybe tonight is the night.

    DRJ (c953ab)

  2. Obama’s got a glass jaw. McCain doesn’t need a game changer, just some jabs that get under his skin to get him off balance.

    Voting present on Freddie and Fannie and potentially linking ACORN to that is one.

    Ayers is another and blowing off the 8 year old, not advising my campaign alibi that Obama uses. Ir’s an example of a lack of transparency on Obama’s – a lack of straight talk. Nobody is suggesting you are a terrorist, but why were you hiding the Annenberg work. Stanley Kurtz had a nice piece yesterday that shows Ayers requesting and Obama approving grants for African American education projects that dovetail very nicely with the anti-American theology that Jeremiah Wright was preaching at TUCC. It makes Obama’s denials about hearing the hate preached there a lot harder to accept.

    His relationship with ACORN is another example of a lack of transparency and McCain should ask him to join him in calling for an investigation into that organization during the debate in order to ensure a fair election.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  3. I expect to be disappointed,
    Again!

    Another Drew (7da08f)

  4. Great Post, Karl, and I agree with your points.

    Unfortunately, we aren’t running for the Presidency. Obama is an extraordinarily weak candidate in almost every area – experience, plans, record, character, associations. The only area in which he shows strength is speaking skills, and in that he’s marginal.

    Marginal compared to someone who is excellent extemporaneously. McCain is used to the Senate, not to quick political debate, and is less than marginal speaking openly. McCain’s only chance is to hit Obama cohesively, and in a way that is recognizable, and that has been the problem. The last debate was excruciatingly boring, and when it’s boring, there’s no reason for anyone to challenge their beliefs. Obama doesn’t have to make sense or be consistent. He simply must seem authoritative for people to believe that he has the ability to be President, because the majority of people have no way of accurately gauging such an ability.

    Besides, McCain must not only refute what Obama says, he must do so in such a way that the media will be unable to obfuscate it the next day, which is now their job.

    That being said, it is a testament to Obama’s weakness that, given the adulation by the media, his lead in the polls has been largely on the edge of sample error.

    Apogee (366e8b)

  5. By the way, what exactly were the regulations that McCain allegedly sought for Fannie and Freddie? And how would they have helped us in the current situation?

    The more I learn about credit-swaps and other derivatives, the more I realize that the whole idea that subprime lending caused this crisis is a complete red herring.

    Subprimes were the first to go, but what is bringing the system down is derivatives trading.

    Try to comprehend a completely unregulated market that increased in total value from $106 trillion to $531 trillion (yes, that’s right, trillion) in six years. Unbelieveable? Yet that’s what happened in the derivatives market from 2002 to 2008.

    U.S. GDP is is only about $14 trillion per year — so where did more than $400 trillion in market value come from?

    Sure as hell not from subprime lending. Sorry, kids, much as you’d like to blame the bleeding-heart liberals for passing out mortgages to poor people with bad credit, this crisis was created somewhere else.

    Read about it here.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  6. Obama’s got a glass jaw… […McCain should do this, McCain should do that…]

    The problem is that McCain probably isn’t going to do any of that, and neither is the MSM.

    If you want to get something out there, and you want to take advantage of BHO’s vulnerabilities on a host of issues, you need to go raise it to BHO in person. Get his response on video and upload it to Youtube.

    For instance, the plumber has had somewhat of an impact on the election, and his was basically just a rant. If he’d asked BHO a very tough question and BHO hadn’t been able to answer it, that would have had a very major impact on the election.

    Unfortunately, for one reason or another, this and other sites so far aren’t interested in pushing the highly effective plan to go ask BHO some questions. Perhaps emailing them and urging them to help promote that plan would work.

    How to Defeat Barack Obama (1f2755)

  7. Phil campaigns: U.S. GDP is is only about $14 trillion per year — so where did more than $400 trillion in market value come from?

    Phil issues an immediate example of my point:
    [Obama] simply must seem authoritative for people to believe that he has the ability to be President, because the majority of people have no way of accurately gauging such an ability.

    Apogee (366e8b)

  8. Using the NYT as your source material is the most hilarious thing you’ve done yet at this point, Phil.

    Dmac (cc81d9)

  9. Phil – What were people writing the credit default swaps on? What did they feel they needed protection from?

    You need to learn to ask the right questions.

    Fannie and Freddie became competitors of banks and other institutions. They were exceeding the missions specified by their charters. They were engaging in extremely risky financial behavior. The reforms proposed would have reined in their activities on all fronts to conform more closely to their charters.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  10. Dmac, you really should read the article, if only to direct me to an alternative perspective. I haven’t found one yet, and I’m looking.

    Phil (6d9f2f)

  11. 24Ahead – You keep making suggestions to ask Obama questions.

    I have some other ideas:

    1) Easily obtain the football with the nuclear launch codes from the desk of the President.

    2) Secretly obtain transcripts of the conversations between Vladimir Putin and the new leader of Russia.

    3) Learn who will win the World Series.

    24Ahead – I don’t see how you can fail to know that Barack Obama is one of the most guarded candidates for President that this country has ever seen. The conversation with the plumber was an accident – and it was initiated by Obama’s handlers. No doubt someone will get fired for that mistake. The days of simply knocking on the door of the White House have been over since the time of Lincoln. I don’t agree with it, but the media and press all play along.

    It is simply unrealistic to think that you can a) get close enough, or b)ask a lawyer/politician like Obama any question for which he doesn’t have an answer prepared.

    Apogee (366e8b)

  12. I did read that article last week, and their indictment of Greenspan revealed nothing that hasn’t been said before – just more obfuscating from the NYT regarding the root of the problem.

    You should review Clinton’s comments regarding the root of the problems; he’s been telling anyone who will listen that the reluctance to rein in Fannie and Freddie were the beginning of the end, and he should know – it happened on his watch. Funny, the MSM has studiously avoided his comments on the issue over the past few weeks.

    Dmac (cc81d9)

  13. Perhaps I’ll address Phil’s point in a separate post, though daleyrocks makes a primary point. Credit default swaps aren’t a problem… until there is a credit default. But there’s a lot more to it than that.

    The bill McCain supported would have created a Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Agency setting forth operating, administrative, and regulatory provisions respecting: (1) assessment authority; (2) authority to limit nonmission-related assets; (3) minimum and critical capital levels; (4) risk-based capital test; (5) capital classifications and undercapitalized enterprises; (6) enforcement actions and penalties; (7) golden parachutes; and (8) reporting.

    In this case, (3),(4) and (5) would have operated to drastically limit GSE involvement in the subprime market.

    Karl (1b4668)

  14. Phil, I will give you the benefit of the doubt here. Nobody really understands the derivatives but the hedge funds are doing better than any other market function right now. Peter Wallison has been writing about this problem since the 1990s. At one point, when he was on the board of a mortgage insurance company, his company was told by Raines that they were not being included in Fannie Mae business because of Wallison’s presence on their board. Here is his book .

    There were enough people warning about this but the politicians ignored them. One reply is that more than mortgages are involved but MBS were the basic problem that allowed it to metastasize.

    Bush could have insisted on a rate rise by the Fed but reform of the Fannie-Freddie system was violently resisted by Congress, especially Democrats who accused dissenting Republicans of racism, just like now. Builders and mortgage brokers were just as culpable and resisted Republican efforts on reform.

    It was a perfect storm.

    Having said that, I sense that Obama has not closed the deal and I think he is going to lose.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  15. Oh poor Joe the plumber..
    I hope he gets a book deal out of this, because Mccain really screwed his life up as a result of this. His computer is going to get hacked, he’s going to get prank phone calls, his business will be targeted, all a result of Mccain outing him like Valerie Plaime. That is sad.. I seriously hope Jay Leno invites Joe Werzberger on TV and he gets a book deal.. Everyone is using his name, and he should really seek a patent on “Joe the Plumber.”

    Daniel (763b9c)

  16. McCain “screwed his life up”? The man stands up, AT AN OBAMA EVENT, and it’s McCain that has done him wrong?
    Personal responsibility, Daniel. You should try it sometime.

    Icy Truth (1468e4)

  17. Regulation vs Oversight:

    FannieMae and FreddieMac are GSEs, Government Sponsored Enterprises. As such, they come under the oversight responsibilities of Congress. To interject “regulation” into the debate is to muddy the waters and confuse the issue. Which is the point of much of the discussion having to do with regulation or deregulation.

    Ropelight (80557f)

  18. McCain refuses to wear a flag lapel pin YET AGAIN.

    Why does he hate America?

    Metacom (b8c7e2)

  19. Apogee writes “[a bunch of negative stuff that could have been written by the Obama campaign]”.

    Apogee: please have a chat with Joe the Plumber. He got to ask BHO a question, on video. So can anyone else who’s willing to spend a few hours of time. I also suggest you review fundamental American concepts regarding holding politicians accountable.

    How to Defeat Barack Obama (e525a8)

  20. kcidsybabtafakcusoguoytnodyhwmocatemyeh

    Icy Truth (1468e4)

  21. Metacom should stick to being a brave warrior against those racist Pilgrims.

    JD (f7900a)

  22. Ropelight,

    The GSEs were under the regulation of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And it was Clinton HUD Sec’y Andrew Cuomo who greenlit a lot of the policies that led to the subprime mortgage spree and Fannie and Freddie. The GSEs were subject to both regulation and Congressional oversight.

    Karl (1b4668)

  23. Karl – I never liked playing in the derivatives market with my company. It was basically renting my balance sheet. I could see what I was doing with one counterparty, but I had no idea what that counterparty was doing with everybody else. I had no provision in my product pricing for credit losses and investments weren’t my primary business so there was no reason to screw with them for a few extra basis points of yield. The current crisis has borne out that the linkages between companies are what is causing liquidity difficulties.

    Use the Chicago Board of Trade in the old days as an alternate example. If I see a trader in a pit who I know spends every night doing a lot of coke and hanging out with hookers I may or may not feel comfortable trading with him. He may DK my trades when it comes time to settle. Or I may know him personally and throw him a few trades so he doesn’t go belly up, not knowing he’s taking huge risks on a number of other trades. Well, one nice thing about the Board of Trade is that all their trades are or were guaranteed through the Board of Trade Clearing Corp., so theoretically I should have been OK trading with this guy. The CDS market as I understand it did not have a central clearing or guarantee mechanism.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  24. 60 : 30
    58 : 31
    53 : 22
    56 : 28
    55 : 29

    What’re these numbers?

    Results from instant post-debate polls tonight from a number of organizations – Obama to McCain.

    Obama won across the board by a ratio of 2 to 1. Wow.

    I guess the American people simply aren’t going to be fooled by the cranky, old, sarcastic put-down artist.

    Metacom (b8c7e2)

  25. Metacom – They fooled by the inexperienced, smooth-talking, lying socialist instead. There’s a sucker born every minute. Thanks for your input.

    daleyrocks (d9ec17)

  26. I wish you would get the media to highlight just
    one or two of your thoughts. The media is so
    biased and anti American in this campaign it feels like a well oiled communist manifesto everyday.
    What is being taught in journalism schools and more importantly WHO is doing the teaching??????
    Ayers, Acorn, Wright, voting records, speeches all point to a sad day for America if American voters do not wake up soon. Please do your homeowrk do not vote for OBAMA……PLEASE VOTE MCCAIN if you love America, have children and still want to live in a Democracy that is safe.

    maggieb (a36012)

  27. America is going to be fooled by the lying bigot who associates with terrorists and hate-filled preachers. That’s a great alternative. Obama is going to wipe out the fabric upon which this country was founded through his socialist illuminati views.

    Jeff (3396e6)


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