McCain's Top Policy Man: McCain Qualified for Presidency Because He "Helped Create" BlackBerrys

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 11:40 AM EDT

This, I suspect, will be as big a headache for the McCainers as the "How many houses do I own?" episode. I mean, we're still joking about Al Gore inventing the internet eight years later, right?

Asked what work John McCain did as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that helped him understand the financial markets, the candidate's top economic adviser wielded visual evidence: his BlackBerry.
"He did this," Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. "Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you're looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that's what he did."

Update: For what it's worth, BlackBerry is made by a Canadian company.

Update Update: The AP gets sassy in its write-up, saying, "McCain has acknowledged that he doesn't know how to use a computer and can't send e-mail, one of the BlackBerry's prime functions."

Too Many Updates!!: The Obama campaign keeps its eye on the ball in its response:

"If John McCain hadn't said that 'the fundamentals of our economy are strong' on the day of one of our nation's worst financial crises, the claim that he invented the BlackBerry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week," said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

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Why Would You Trust a Life-Long Deregulator to Regulate the Markets?

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 11:26 AM EDT

I want to reiterate as plainly as possible a point that David and Josh Marshall both made yesterday.

McCain is now responding to the turmoil on Wall Street by saying things like, "We will have transparency and accountability and we will reform the regulatory bodies of government." American workers, he says, have been "betrayed by a casino on Wall Street of greedy, corrupt excess."

But why should we trust this guy to bring the proper regulation to the financial industry? Who is he to play the populist? He is a life-long supporter of deregulation, his campaign staffers made millions lobbying for failed lenders, and his top economic adviser, Foreclosure Phil Gramm, helped pass the deregulation that created this mess in the first place.

Update: The NYT mines this vein.

The View from Abroad on Palin: God Help Us

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 11:10 AM EDT

Here's columnist Bradley Burston in Israeli daily Ha'aretz:

I get it. I get that millions of Americans have a crying need for someone to stand up and say the things that Sarah Palin has been telling them. ...
But it wasn't until I got into the taxicab this morning, that I realized what the American voter truly faces this November. The radio was playing a clip from her ABC News interview, the one in which she was asked about the Bush Doctrine. The problem was not that she was unacquainted with the doctrine. Millions of Americans are unacquainted with it. The problem is that Sarah Palin was also asking those millions of Americans to put her first in line for the most important position in humankind. ...
Even my Israeli cab driver, a non-American through and through, knew more about the Bush Doctrine than Sarah Palin. And that is cause for serious concern. ... There is something in the smugness, the faith-based rigidity, the dismissiveness, that suggests that once again, we may have a national leader who knows better how to divide than to rule.

On the bright side, Burston continues, the realization that Israeli politics would never elevate such an inexperienced statesman to a top leadership position restored some faith in their country to the writer and his colleagues. "'This would never have happened in Israel, ever' remarked a journalist friend ... With irony bordering on the painful, the journalist added, 'Sarah Palin has restored my faith in Israel.' Israel is far from a model of good government, wise policymaking and exemplary leaders. But here, at least, voters and the politicians make it their business to know inside and out .... politics ... for what politics really is, in America and Israel both: a matter of life and death."

Obama On the Air With "Fundamentals"

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 11:01 AM EDT

Yesterday morning, amidst financial disaster or near-disaster, John McCain said, "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Today, the Obama campaign is making him pay.

In response to anyone who thinks they can use statistics and technical definitions to argue the fundamentals of the economy are strong, I would echo a point Paul Krugman made last night on MSNBC (video): Given the state of our banks, our homes, our jobs, and our wages, if we aren't in a recession yet we need to seriously rethink our definition of recession.

Paulson's Con

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 10:58 AM EDT

The natural result of the federal government response that emerged over the weekend around the Lehman Brothers catastrophe is to place the venerable Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government institution that insures the bank deposits of hundreds of millions of Americans, in grave jeopardy. While Treasury secretary Henry Paulson and others talk about not sinking taxpayers' funds into saving Lehman, the real, unstated policy is just the opposite.

It is going to work like this: As it did with Merrill Lynch, the government's approach to the crisis will force commercial banks to swallow troubled Wall Street investment companies, flooding the commercial banks with the lousy junk bonds and faulty mortgages that the investment companies own, and that started this mess to begin with. More and more commercial banks will find themselves on the edge, and they will turn to the FDIC. But the FDIC can't possibly shoulder the growing burden. At that point, Congress will have to step in and shore up the FDIC. The deal doubtless will include some version of the S&L bailout, with the creation of a Resolution Trust Company type institution into which the banks can dump the sub-prime mortgages, junk bonds, and the like.

In other words, the public will end up paying for Wall Street's financial binge. And the leaders of the financial community who got us into this expensive mess? They'll get the traditional golden parachutes and lavish pension arrangements--huge payoffs for screwing the public.

It's worth noting that Sheila Bair, a longtime Treasury Department official who is now head of the FDIC, was one of only a handful of people in Washington who repeatedly warned then Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan about the dangers of unregulated banking in general, and the growing housing bubble in particular--warnings that Greenspan roundly ignored. As French economist said of Greenspan last year, "He created four major crises: savings and loans, LTCM [Long-Term Capital Management], new-technology shares, and subprime mortgages," and then won praise for his handling of these crises. "He's congratulated for his role as fireman," said Artus, "but he's the one who started the fire." Now its U.S. taxpayers who will get burned, through the very institution--the FDIC--that FDR created 75 years ago to protect them.

Vote McCain, Lose Your Health Insurance

| Tue Sep. 16, 2008 2:47 AM EDT

VOTE McCAIN, LOSE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE....Bob Herbert provides a preview of a new paper that analyzes the effects of John McCain's healthcare proposals:

A study coming out Tuesday from scholars at Columbia, Harvard, Purdue and Michigan projects that 20 million Americans who have employment-based health insurance would lose it under the McCain plan.

....According to the study: "The McCain plan will force millions of Americans into the weakest segment of the private insurance system — the nongroup market — where cost-sharing is high, covered services are limited and people will lose access to benefits they have now."

The net effect of the plan, the study said, "almost certainly will be to increase family costs for medical care."

Remember: this is a feature, not a bug. Republicans think Americans use too much healthcare, and they figure that the best way to fix this is to make it more expensive. So that's what McCain's plan does. It's a pretty typical specimen of the "more skin in the game" plan beloved of conservative think tanks.

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French Pique-nique Tax

| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 9:39 PM EDT

758px-Manet%2C_Edouard_-_Le_D%E9jeuner_sur_l%27Herbe_%28The_Picnic%29_%281%29.jpg It's about time. The French, those pique-nique-aholics, are about to tax non-recyclable throwaway plates and cutlery. The tax would apply to non-recyclable cardboard but not plastic tableware. (Pourquoi pas?) It's part of a wider move to encourage people to use more eco-friendly products. Including (maybe) consumer electronics.

Reuters reports that France has already introduced the bonus-malus system for cars—taxing the most heavily polluting vehicles while giving tax breaks to greener ones. Le Figaro reports on a possible list of new taxable items: fridges, washing machines, televisions, batteries, and wooden furniture.

Sacré bleu. You mean while we've been dissing them with freedom fries and whatnot they've been trying to address some of the real terrors on planet Earth? FYI, I've been carrying two sets of plastic cutlery in my messenger bag for a couple of years now. Picnic-ready (toujours, n'est pas?) and trying to minimize my own trail of waste.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the Kiriyama Prize and the John Burroughs Medal Award.

Meet the Religious Right Duo Behind "Obama Waffles"

| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 6:56 PM EDT

At the annual Washington gathering of the Christian right sponsored by the political arm of the Family Research Council, the Republican Party's emissaries have come in past years to bow before some 2000 right-wing foot-soldiers and the leaders who command them. However, this year's Values Voter Summit, a bit light on GOP dignitaries, made less news for its speaker line-up than it did for the sale of a breakfast food.

In the far corner of the exhibit hall at the conference, two entrepreneurs hawked "Obama Waffles," a product they described as "political satire." On sale for $10 apiece, the boxes of waffle mix were emblazoned with a cartoon image of a bug-eyed, toothy, dark-lipped Barack Obama eying a plate of waffles. A pat of butter on the waffles is stamped "2008." On the top flap, the Obama cartoon appears in a turban, next to an arrow printed with the text: "Point box toward Mecca for tastier waffles."


| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 6:49 PM EDT

GULLIBLE?....Mickey Kaus thinks, perhaps correctly, that trying to brand McCain as a liar is a losing strategy for Obama. Instead, he has a few other ideas, including this one:

6. There must be some way to disillusion the conservative base with McCain, at least a bit. I know the CW — Palin has locked in the base, freeing McCain to move left. But jeez, McCain isn't moving to the left just on immigration, and he isn't moving subtly. Listen to this new radio ad, which might as well be titled "Stem Cell Research, Stem Cell Research, Stem Cell Research, Stem Cell Research." That's how often the phrase is repeated. How much more Screw-You-I'm-Taking-You-for-Granted can McCain get? Are conservatives complete suckers?

As near as I can tell, yes they are. At the very least, they're certainly very cheap dates.

Joe Biden Speaks

| Mon Sep. 15, 2008 6:20 PM EDT

JOE BIDEN SPEAKS....Here's something interesting. A couple of days ago I was noodling, as we political junkies are wont to do, about what kind of ads Barack Obama ought to be running. I didn't bother posting about it, though, because we amateurs are forever thinking we have brilliant ideas along these lines and we amateurs are almost always wrong.

So imagine my surprise when I saw my imaginary ad basically being narrated by Joe Biden in a speech this morning at St. Clair Shores, Michigan:

Eight years ago, a man ran for President who claimed he was different, not a typical Republican. He called himself a reformer. He admitted that his Party, the Republican Party, had been wrong about things from time to time. He promised to work with Democrats and said he'd been doing that for a long time.

That candidate was George W. Bush. Remember that? Remember the promise to reach across the aisle? To change the tone? To restore honor and dignity to the White House?

....Eight years later, we have another Republican nominee who's telling us the exact same thing: This time it will be different, it really will. This time he's going to put country before party, to change the tone, reach across the aisle, change the Republican Party, change the way Washington works.

We've seen this movie before, folks. But as everyone knows, the sequel is always worse than the original.

The fact that this approach seems effective to me is probably a bad sign. Still: this approach seems effective to me. Basically, you run an ad that uses lots of hot button imagery to plausibly pin the blame for some problem or another (economic meltdown, Jack Abramoff, Katrina, our inability to capture Osama bin Laden, etc.) on "the usual Republican approach" or some such, and then close with, "Now John McCain is running for president. He says he's a different kind of Republican. Do you believe him?" Add creepy music, grainy black-and-white images, or whatever else the current state of the art in attack ads calls for, and you're off to the races.

Eh. Probably wouldn't focus group well or something, I suppose, and besides, it might piss off too many moderate Republicans who might otherwise vote for Obama. Plus it's pretty ordinary stuff that wouldn't generate any media outrage. In the end, who knows? We all think we're marketing geniuses, don't we?