Phil Gramm in McCain's rearview mirror

But only when it's someone else's past

| "There you go again," chided Sarah Palin, "pointing backwards again". John McCain and Sarah Palin are trying their darndest to distance themselves from their own past, the Bush administration, while using Barack Obama's past as a weapon against him, calling attention to associations, real or imagined, with various figures whose paths have crossed his.

Palin in the vice-presidential debate, was aping Ronald Reagan's jibes at Jimmy Carter in their debate years ago. Just as interesting is the second sentence: "You preferenced..." First, "preference" is a noun, not a verb, and the meaning, choice, doesn't fit at all. Second, the verb she was probably searching for is "prefaced," meaning to introduce by. Palin is a regular Mrs Malaprop.

Earlier in the summer it was all about Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Obama's Chicago church. Then it was about Antoin Rezko and Obama's house. Every indication is that now it's going to be William Ayers, one of the Weathermen group back in the 1960s and 70s, now sometimes called a domestic terrorists organization. In any event, Obama was eight years old when the Weathermen were active; charges against Ayers were eventually dropped because of prosecutorial misconduct; and Ayers has rehabilitated himself and is a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This is standard Rovian politics: try to change the subject, accuse your opponent of your own failings, attack the character and motives of those who disagree with you. And the McCain has made no secret that this is their plan for the remaining month of the campaign. Republican sources told the Washington Post that "Sen. John McCain and his Republican allies are readying a newly aggressive assault on Sen. Barack Obama's character, believing that to win in November they must shift the conversation back to questions about the Democrat's judgment, honesty and personal associations" (, Oct 3, 2008).

But character assassination by association is a game McCain would do well to avoid. His own past includes Charles Keating, one of the "Keating Five," convicted of fraud in the savings and loan meltdown and bailout in the 1980s.

Phil Gramm
Phil Gramm

More the point on a day that markets around the world are collapsing as the current financial crisis spreads, McCain's past and present includes Phil Gramm, former Senator from Texas, and until July, co-chair of McCain's campaign and McCain's most senior economic advisor. He has receded into the background after declaring that we are a "nation of whiners" for questioning the state of the economy. If you want to understand how we got into the mess we are in now, you don't have to look much farther than Phil Gramm:

Who let the dogs of greed out on Wall Street? Phil Gramm. Phil Gramm was behind much of the legislation that enacted the Reagan philosophy: the markets can do no wrong; the government can do no right; regulation is bad; deregulation is good. And during all his years in Congress, McCain has sided with the deregulators, his 11th-hour conversion notwithstanding.

The chickens have come home to roost. And with chickens comes what the economy has turned into — chicken shit

The Republicans think they are going to turn the page on the financial crisis and go back to smearing Obama. So far in 2008, 605,000 jobs have been lost. The Dow Industrials opened the year at 13251, and as I write stands below 9600, a loss of nearly 30%. The US is fighting two wars with no end in sight. Budget surpluses have been replaced by budget deficits and the national debt is soaring. Under the circumstances, I can't imagine people will lose focus on the economy.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



Recent Articles