So the United States is entering financial turmoil, what with all of our banks collapsing and the world's largest insurance company needing a bailout from the State of New York and the stock market tumbling and thousands of fancy jobs on the line. Honestly, though, let's get to the heart of the matter: will this news secretly (or openly!) thrill political partisans? It seems, on its face, that news of Wall Street turmoil helps Senator Barack Obama. And why not? The initial careful ventures into political exploitation of this maybe-catastrophe are already underway. How will it play out? How To Attack Josh Marshall tosses out a readymade almost-true attack line: "The man most responsible for the financial services and banking deregulation that made today possible, fmr. Sen. Phil Gramm, is the man John McCain wants to put in charge of the whole economy." Ok. The "man most responsible" part is defensible, if exaggerated. Gramm deregulated the hell out of the banking sector as a senator. And he lobbied for lax oversight of predatory lending as vice chairman of UBS's i-banking arm. The "man McCain wants to put in charge of the whole economy" bit seems a little less true. We don't know who the hell McCain would let run things. McCain does love Gramm, and Gramm taught McCain everything he needs to know about the economy. McCain's limited grasp of economics basically consists of Gramm's strict anti-regulation philosophies with a bit of pandering to the middle class tossed in. But Gramm is McCain's former campaign co-chair. All signs point to a bigger role played by the less unpopular Carly Fiorina handling the economy in a McCain presidency, even if Gramm's ideas rule the day. Still. That's the kind of fact-checking that gets us nowhere! It's a fine line to use: McCain doesn't get the economy, and the guy he has around to explain it to him is personally responsible for this mess. Some variation on that line will probably be repeated by the Obama campaign over the next week. (Obama has already siezed on a mostly innocuous McCain remark—way to adapt, guys!) Watch Your Own Ties But here are some of the potential pitfalls for Obama. This bit of trivia has already made it to Politico:
Obama has raised a full $395,574 from employees and PACs of the now-bankrupt Lehman brothers, second only to Hillary Clinton. Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer did quite nicely too; McCain is seventh among the firm's favorite pols (though its favorite Republican), having raised $145,100, according to OpenSecrets.org.
Hah! Oh, also, there is the uncomfortable fact of Joe Biden. Biden gave a big anti-McCain attack speech in Michigan today. Heavy on populist themes, the speech (according to the prepared remarks) looks like it scores a lot of points against McCain by hammering home the "out of touch" theme, knocking him on calling for help for "those who invested in real estate" instead of, you know, home owners. Fair point! But Biden, charming attack dog that he is, is also the Senator from Delaware. Or, as he is sometimes called, the Senator from MBNA. The credit card company is basically Biden's only constituency. Like six guys actually live in Deleware, but the size and influence of the Bank of America-owned MBNA (and the credit card operations of other major banks) more than make up for a paucity of residents. Why The Facts (Still) Don't Matter But, you know, this is all airy intellectual elitist stuff. As we know (but as liberals never actually practice effectively), saying "Obama and Biden are in bed with the banks" is not too effective if they sound against the banks and for the people. Democrats have a built-in advantage there, even if they've squandered it for 15 years. On the other hand, "McCain is more worried about bailing out banks than helping the little guy" works quite well as an attack (even if McCain isn't in favor of bailing out anyone, and no politician is in favor of bailing out anyone until they have to bail someone out because no one knows what would happen if they didn't). So if this major economic turmoil can somehow be translated into language that makes sense to non-rich people (the press forgets, sometimes, that this is all academic scary-sounding nonsense to people who don't actually work near or on Wall Street, until it's directly connected to jobs, wages, gas prices, and inflation), net gain for Democrats and Barack Obama. And, frankly, Phil Gramm might become more dangerous to McCain than Jeremiah Wright ever was to Barack Obama.