Meltdown Management

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

Unprecedented action by the federal government — essentially, to buy up troubled mortgages, to ban short sales of stock and to guarantee money market funds — was unthinkable just a few months ago. But what is amazing is how many Wall Street types and speculators I talked to a year or more so ago who predicted that this day would come, as if a cancer were spreading throughout the financial system. In other words, this was a crisis that has been predicted for quite some time, and it didn’t take a finance wizard to figure it out.

A personal note of irrational exuberance: Four years ago, I looked at a house in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles, and knew immediately that to buy it would be a stretch. But I really knew something was a amiss when I ran numbers with a mortgage broker, who insisted that I could afford the home when I knew full well that I could not. (Granted, I could if I cut out meals and driving). I didn’t buy the home, a purchase that would have left me strapped if not wiped out.

At least this morning, John McCain and Barack Obama have been out there commenting on the crisis, but they have largely played second fiddle as Hank Paulsen and Ben Bernanke take center stage with their plans for a bailout. (Will Durst on President Bush: “He’s
either in witness protection or disguised as “where’s Waldo” at a
barber shop canopy convention.”)

Instead, their speeches this morning not withstanding, the candidates still seem to be stuck in the blame game, as evidenced by the similarities to their ad spots in the past 24 hours. Yesterday came a barrage of ads trying to link the other to the more nefarious figures in the crisis.

Here’s McCain’s spot:

Here’s Obama’s spot:

Some read racial overtones into the McCain spot, as it features Franklin Raines of Fannie Mae, a figure with a loose connection to Obama, along with an elderly white woman. So it is interesting that the McCain campaign today released a new ad, this one making the connection of Obama to Jim Johnson, who for a brief moment was leading his VP selection team. You wonder why McCain released this ad second, given that Johnson’s connection to the Obama campaign is actually true, while Raines has not advised the Democratic nominee. The McCain campaign says that the ad was made several days ago, not at the last minute.

What this all proves is that the campaigns are still in reactive mode, which was perhaps most in evidence by a McCain ad released on Wednesday. In it, he slams Obama for calling for big government. With the feds on the cusp of the biggest bailout in the nation’s history, It seems a bit out of date today, doesn’t it?

Arrest Update: From the St. Paul Pioneer Press comes word that the St. Paul city attorney plans to drop charges against members of the media who were arrested during the Republican National Convention. That includes Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, about 30 others, and myself. Thanks to all for words of support.

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