Blogs

McCain's John Lewis Flip-Flop

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 12:42 PM EDT

Remember when John McCain said that one of the three "wisest people" he would "rely heavily on" in his administration was Democratic Congressman and civil rights legend John Lewis?

That seems unlikely nowadays, given that Lewis is accusing McCain of "sowing the seeds of hatred and division" a la George Wallace, and McCain is charging Lewis with "a brazen and baseless attack on my character." It's going to be awkward when they cross paths in the Capitol cafeteria...

* Headline changed for clarity.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Paulson's Record

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 12:26 PM EDT

PAULSON'S RECORD....Ezra Klein has an eminently fair and nonshrill critique here of Henry Paulson's handling of the ongoing credit crisis. I'll just add one thing. Paulson's reluctance to push the trigger on capital infusions for banks is understandable, even if it was wrong, but his resistance to having even the power to recapitalize banks is genuinely weird. After all, before the latest phase of the crisis hit, Paulson and Bernanke had spent months urging banks to raise private capital to weather the storm. Both men knew perfectly well that bank capitalization was an issue. And before he introduced his version of the bailout bill, Paulson had twice previously bowed to reality on government takeovers and recapitalizations, first in the case of Fannie and Freddie, and second in the case of AIG.

Given all this, his continuing resistance to the idea is difficult to fathom. His caution can perhaps be written off to background and ideology, but not his flat rejection of even being given the authority. I'm not sure what the explanation is.

Is a McCain Comeback Even Possible? Let's Check the History Books

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 12:01 PM EDT

A question I was mulling over the weekend while watching a sweet, sweet Patriots defeat: Has any candidate in recent times been able to come back from seven to 10 points down with three weeks left in a presidential election? John Harwood, writing in the New York Times, suggests the precedent doesn't look good McCain.

Since Gallup began presidential polling in 1936, only one candidate has overcome a deficit that large, and this late, to win the White House: Ronald Reagan, who trailed President Jimmy Carter 47 percent to 39 percent in a survey completed on Oct. 26, 1980.
Yet Mr. Carter, like Mr. McCain today, represented the party holding the White House in bad times. After Mr. Reagan successfully presented himself as an alternative to Mr. Carter in their lone debate, held on the late date of Oct. 28, he surged ahead...
In 1968, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey all but erased a 12-point early-October deficit before losing narrowly to Richard M. Nixon. In 2000, Vice President Al Gore wiped out a seven-point deficit in the final 10 days of the election, winning the popular vote but losing the Electoral College to Mr. Bush.

Harwood cites a figure from Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels: since 1948, the candidate leading in October has won three-fourths of the time. Bartels puts Obama's chance of winning the popular vote at "a little over 90 percent."

Polling Gets Even More Decisive

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 11:49 AM EDT

Check out the new ABC/WaPo poll. Obama's up 10, which is not really new, but the internals are devastating for McCain.

Overall, Obama is leading 53 percent to 43 percent among likely voters, and for the first time in the general-election campaign, voters gave the Democrat a clear edge on tax policy and providing strong leadership.
McCain has made little headway in his attempts to convince voters that Obama is too "risky" or too "liberal." Rather, recent strategic shifts may have hurt the Republican nominee, who now has higher negative ratings than his rival and is seen as mostly attacking his opponent rather than addressing the issues that voters care about. Even McCain's supporters are now less enthusiastic about his candidacy, returning to levels not seen since before the Republican National Convention.
Conversely, Obama's pitch to the middle class on taxes is beginning to sink in; nearly as many said they think their taxes would go up under a McCain administration as under an Obama presidency, and more see their burdens easing with the Democrat in the White House.

Josh Marshall adds a couple more points:

McCain's New Lurch: I Will Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight, Fight

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 11:31 AM EDT

This was first posted at DavidCorn.com....

John McCain offers his newest lurch today.

In a speech he is to give in Virginia Beach, McCain says 17 times that he will fight for America, according to his prepared remarks. He repeatedly calls himself a "fighter." And he's an experienced fighter who won't--like you know who--have to study up on issues before making command decisions.

Over and over in this new stump speech, McCain says he is ready to fight--for the country, for change, for a new direction, for the future, for the children, for justice for all. Seriously.

Times are tough, McCain notes, but America is worth fighting for. It needs a fighter like John McCain, who is a real fighter who has always been a fighter for America.

In other words, vote for the fight guy. Here's how the speech ends:

What's the Problem?

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 3:33 AM EDT

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?....In response to a Paul Krugman post about the Treasury wasting time implementing a capital infusion program for distressed banks, a commenter wrote:

They still don't know why banks don't trust enough to lend commercial paper.

If it's balance sheet issues then unloading toxic debit will work.

If it's a need to de-leverage then a capital infusion is required.

But if it's trust then we need regulation of and a change in management at the banks.

And if it's fear of credit default swaps, or other essentially incalculable obligations, then they need to be unwound and banned, at least the incalculable or morally hazardous ones, going forward.

My guess is that all four of these are issues, but it's the last one that keeps me up at night (metaphorically speaking, anyway). If CDS losses turn out to be the biggest problem — and potentially, at least, they seem to be responsible for far bigger losses than the underlying subprime losses themselves — then even a big capital infusion might not make much of dent in the credit crisis. But how do we find out?

And here's another thing to be curious about. When Gordon Brown announced his capital infusion plan, Britain's four biggest banks apparently took him up on his offer almost immediately. But what about America's biggest banks? Have they been putting out feelers? Burning up the phone lines begging Paulson to get off his ass and offer them a deal? Or what? And which American banks are in weak enough shape to want fresh capital at (presumably) punitive prices? All of them? A few big ones? Lots of little ones? Wait and see, I guess.

UPDATE: That should have been "Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman's post." Apologies for the error.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Obama's Ads

| Mon Oct. 13, 2008 2:52 AM EDT

OBAMA'S ADS....Politico reports on Barack Obama's fundraising:

One official close to the campaign said that September's fundraising haul set a new record, surpassing the $66 million Obama raised in August. Another aide, asked about the campaign's take, would only describe it: "big."

How big is "big"? Well, big enough that I've actually seen a few Obama ads myself. In California. I guess maybe they were national ad buys, but I don't think so. And I can hardly remember the last time I saw a presidential campaign bothering to advertise in California. (Maybe for a few days in 2000 when Karl Rove was having delusions that Bush might win here? That's all that comes to mind.)

Anyway, I don't quite know what this means, but Obama must really have money to burn if he's buying ads here in the Golden State.

Sunday Bonus Catblogging - 10.12.2008

| Sun Oct. 12, 2008 4:11 PM EDT

SUNDAY BONUS CATBLOGGING.... There's too much tension and stress this weekend over our ongoing financial tsunami. What's needed is some bonus catblogging to explain in layman's terms how we got into this mess.

In today's installment, Inkblot demonstrates graphically what happened to our banking system. Like the titans of our financial industry, last night he became convinced that the answer to all his problems was increased leverage. With enough leverage, along with some positive thinking, he was sure he could fit himself into the box lying on the floor. And he almost did it. Unfortunately, he eventually found himself forced to deleverage his position, at which point the box went kablooey and he needed to be bailed out. Sort of like our banks. Lesson learned?

Quote of the Day - 10.12.08

| Sun Oct. 12, 2008 3:27 PM EDT

QUOTE OF THE DAY....From IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn, commenting on the financial crisis:

"Intensifying solvency concerns about a number of the largest U.S.-based and European financial institutions have pushed the global financial system to the brink of systemic meltdown."

If he means "largest" literally, he's talking about Citi, Chase, and BofA. I wonder if he's talking literally?

Also: why only U.S. and European banks? How are things going in Asia and Australia? How have they managed to avoid the contagion?

Security Agreement Update

| Sun Oct. 12, 2008 3:06 PM EDT

SECURITY AGREEMENT UPDATE....From Juan Cole:

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that its sources in Baghdad say that the al-Maliki government will sign off on a security agreement with the Bush administration "within days." The report says that Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has assured the government that he will accept the agreement if it can pass parliament. Pundits are debating how likely the measure is to get through the Iraqi legislature, with some denying it has a chance and others saying it will sail through.

Cole suggests this might be an attempt at an "October surprise," but I don't really see that. It's been in the works for months, everyone knows it's been in the works for months, and even if it passes the Iraqi parliament it's hardly election-changing news anyway. I'm surprised it's taken as long as it has, but my guess is that the delay has been of a fairly mundane variety.