McCain’s Bush Problem, Laid Bare
Much has been written about McCain’s inability, or unwillingness, to even mention the name of President George W. Bush. Huffington Post’s Sam Stein has a nice score, which lays this problem bare. Stein got his hands on an early draft of a McCain campaign statement on the Wall Street crisis that was very critical of the Bush administration — or, at least, of some unnamed “Administration.” The draft was circulated Tuesday evening among advisers and some high-level donors. Here’s an excerpt:
I am also concerned that the Administration has been inconsistent with the way they have dealt with each crisis. Taxpayer money was used for Bear Stearns, it was not used for Lehman Brothers and now it is used again for AIG. The American people need to know the thinking and the standards behind using taxpayers money to support these private sector institutions. American workers see their businesses suffering and many are going out of business but there is no bailout for them. We also should know why the Administration did not deal with the problems at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac sooner.
When the campaign released an official statement Wednesday morning, this passage was removed, as was some other strong criticism of senior management at Wall Street firms. In today’s speech in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, McCain again made no reference to Bush, and only a passing reference to the “administration” when he says he warned Washington two years ago about the impending doom at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The McCain campaign appears to have a blanket policy of not mentioning Bush. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews made this painfully obvious during a recent interview with McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer, when she refused to say who she voted for in 2004. With Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at his side, McCain has less concern about angering the conservative base — many of whom seem ready to follow her to the end of the Earth — by being overly critical of Bush.
But McCain still can’t, or won’t, attack Bush, for fear that it will give the Obama campaign an opportunity to link McCain to his own party, by pointing out that McCain has voted with Bush 90 percent of the time. Obama has a free pass to criticize the administration and to run ads showing McCain and Bush together, and McCain has essentially cut himself off from benefiting from the wealth of anti-Bush sentiment in this country. Obviously, nothing I’m saying is new or original, but the fact that we have such a clear illustration of McCain’s predicament is worth acknowledging.