Thursday, October 8, 2009

Should Senator McCain Get A Do-Over?

Think back to the 2008 presidential campaign for a minute. Many voters understandably had, well, issues with Sen. John McCain's issues and voting record--even though virtually every reasonable person has the utmost respect for his incredible service to our country.

And one other detail. Unlike the current occupant of the Oval Office, Sen. McCain's rich resume qualified him for the job regardless of whether the voters saw eye to eye (or is that aye to aye?) with him on everything or had misgivings about the McCain agenda. And had the Arizona senator been elected, there would be no runaway federal spending, haphazard national and international security policies, or this strange obsession with socialism, among other things.

Sen. McCain (as did Obama) voted for the TARP bailout; given the economic hysteria at the time, he probably thought in good faith that that was the statesmanlike thing to do. While most of us would probably get sick to our stomach if we had access to the inside machinations of the political world, occasionally good politics and good policy do come together. Occasionally.

However, now comes word via the Washington Times that things were even worse than we thought:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. misled the public about the financial weakness of Bank of America and other early recipients of the government's $700 billion Wall Street bailout, creating "unrealistic expectations" about the companies and damaging the program's credibility, according to a report by the program's independent watchdog.
The federal government last October loaned Bank of America and eight other "healthy" financial institutions a total of $125 billion - the initial payout from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP - in an attempt to avoid a series of major bank collapses that would push the sputtering economy into a free fall or depression.
The rationale for giving money to stable banks and not failing ones, regulators said, was that such institutions would be better able to lend money and thus unfreeze tight credit markets - a major factor in last year's Wall Street losses.
But an audit released Monday by TARP Special Inspector General Neil Barofsky says senior government officials and Wall Street regulators, including Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson, had "affirmative concerns" that several of the nine institutions were financially shaky.
Was it around Labor Day that Sen. McCain pulled ahead in the polls? Then the economic meltdown happened, which crushed his momentum--although the media predictably failed to ask McCain's opponent about his (Obama's) plans to address the financial emergency.

That notwithstanding, Sen. McCain had a golden opportunity to recapture the momentum in the first presidential debate on September 26, 2008, and win the election--despite his lackluster presentation skills and despite ACORN's best efforts.

Did he listen to bad advice from his handlers or was it on his own initiative? Perhaps history will tell use eventually.

Remember, in the run-up to the first debate, Sen. McCain suspended his campaign and floated the idea of postponing the first debate to return to Capitol Hill to intervene in the so-called Paulson financial rescue plan. McCain was roundly criticized for that idea (the same media that refused to hold Obama's feet to the fire on the economic crisis). But the pundits were wrong as usual; the suspense gave McCain an absolute stranglehold on the media campaign coverage--which is exactly where a candidate wants to do.

The debate ultimately went forward on schedule, and there the Senator blew a golden opportunity before an estimated 52.4 million viewers to recapture his lead in the polls. First, he failed to explain to the American public why he suspended his campaign in the first place. (Most people don't have time to follow the news very closely.) His second mistake was pledging on national TV to vote in favor the Paulson bill when it reached the Senate chamber. At the very least he could have hedged, no?

Here's what the senator should have said during the debate:
  • I suspended my campaign and returned to Washington because the House Republicans were not given a seat at the negotiating table. I personally intervened so that both political parties could play in role in writing the legislation for the benefit of the American people.
  • No bill will ever be perfect but Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle should have an opportunity to participate in the process.
  • That being said, I can not support the bill in its present form because it lays the entire pricetag for the corrupt practices of the government and Wall Street at the feet of the American taxpayer.
  • In 2005, I supported a bill that would have reformed the abuses of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the two agencies deeply involved in the subprime mortgage scandal. Senator Obama received massive campaign contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Senator Obama and his friends blocked that legislation from going through. Had my legislation become law, we could have minimized this crisis--or avoided it altogether.

Sadly, Sen. McCain said none of this. This was one occasion where if the senator had put himself first, he would have also put the country first.

Kubrick's Homeland Security

Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, authored by cinema scholar Vincent LoBrutto, thoroughly examines the career of the high school photography buff who became the world-renowned director of Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001 and other classic films.

In the mid-60s, in search of a more civil and private environment, Kubrick moved his family to London permanently, where he lived and worked and lived first in a luxury apartment and then in a large country estate on the outskirts of town. In general, Kubrick--the reclusive "relentless perfectionist"--felt he could exercise more creative control over his filmmaking in the UK rather than in New York or Hollywood. England also allowed him to make movies more cheaply.

In the book, Kubrick's wife Christiane (who appeared in the final scene of Paths of Glory singing in the tavern to French troops) is quoted as follows:
We lived on Central Park West [in NYC] at 84th Street. I began to get used to seeing the streets white with smashed Coke bottles, to seeing police taking the children to school. In the shops, roughs would just slouch and sprawl across the doorways so you'd have to step over them as if it was quite normal. The women were harsh, too. You just got elbowed out of the way by them. The terrible danger was going home and taking it out on somebody weaker like a child. Just like the animal kingdom. New York did something to me. Before we went there we thought that Americans who complained about the schools and the atmosphere were just right-wing creeps, but of course they had a point.
Many years later, New York City experienced a profound renaissance thanks to the effective policing methods introduced by the Giuliani administration. On the other hand, London now faces an increasing rate of street crime. Ironically, back in the day, some claimed that Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) inspired violent copycat behavior--causing Kubrick to pull the film from circulation in his adopted country.

DHS Says No To Sheriff Joe

They say actions speak louder than words, so it's difficult to take the Homeland Security Department seriously about border enforcement when it decides to decertify Sheriff Arpaio's crackdown on illegal immigration under the 287(g) program:
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio says he will continue his controversial "crime suppression operations" despite a Department of Homeland Security decision to strip him of authority to arrest suspected illegal immigrants based solely on their immigration status...
“It’s all politics,” says Arpaio, sheriff of Maricopa County.
Arpaio will still have the power to check the immigration status of people booked by his officers, but not the authority to conduct street patrols looking for illegal immigrants.
The Wall Street Journal has more:
Mr. Arpaio was an early participant in a federal immigration program that enlists and trains local police to identify suspected criminal aliens in jails and on the streets. The program, known as 287g, is designed to target drug dealers, gang members and human smugglers.
Since February 2007, Mr. Arpaio has arrested about 30,000 illegal immigrants who were booked into jails in his county. The street-enforcement component, the most contentious portion of the program, resulted in the apprehension of far fewer people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally.