Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Unearthed Video: McCain Pushed Bush Iraq War Agenda Two Months After 9/11

Recently unearthed video shows that just two months after 9/11, John McCain was not only fully aware of the Bush Administration's Iraq War Agenda, but also that he actively helped make the argument for war.

In an interview broadcast November 28, 2001 on ABC News Nightline, McCain:

* Said that the Bush Administration would build a case for military conflict with Iraq, and expressed his support for such action

* Advanced false claims made by the Bush Administration about the threat of Iraqi WMD

* Connected Iraq with 9/11 by repeating the false claim that 9/11 hijacker Muhammad Atta had met with Iraq intelligence authorities in Prague before 9/11

Here's the video:

Original here

Recently unearthed video shows that just two months after 9/11, John McCain was not only fully aware of the Bush Administration's Iraq War Agenda, but also that he actively helped make the argument fo...
Recently unearthed video shows that just two months after 9/11, John McCain was not only fully aware of the Bush Administration's Iraq War Agenda, but also that he actively helped make the argument fo...

Palin, A Journalism Major, Can't Name A News Source She Reads

Sarah Palin said she does not support the morning after pill as a form of contraception, strongly implied that homosexuality was a choice, and could not name a single source of news that she turns to for information, in yet another installment of her interview series with Katie Couric.

Appearing on CBS Evening News, the Alaska Governor seemed calmer than she had been in previous sit downs. But while she only occasionally provided the type of befuddled responses that had even conservatives scratching their heads, her interview was nevertheless shaky.

Asked what newspapers and magazines she reads, Palin - a journalism major in college - could not name one publication.

"I've read most of them, again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media," she said at first. Couric responded, "What, specifically?"

"Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me all these years."

"Can you name a few?"

"I have a vast variety of source where we get our news," Palin said. "Alaska isn't a foreign country, where it's kind of suggested, 'wow, how could you keep in touch with what the rest of Washington, D.C., may be thinking when you live up there in Alaska?' Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America."

Watch the full Palin interview:

Later, when pressed on a variety of cultural issues, Palin provided red meat for religious conservatives. But her answers seemed to fall on the far edge of mainstream political thought. She said she was "unapologetically" pro-life when asked if she opposed abortion even for a 15-year-old raped by her father.

"[I would] counsel that person to choose life despite the horrific, horrific circumstances," she said, before moderating her position a bit: "If you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here, should anyone end up in jail for having an ... abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing I would ever support."

Asked whether she believed that the morning after pill should be outlawed, Palin did not directly address the question, saying only: "Personally, and this isn't a McCain-Palin policy, I would not choose to participate in that kind of contraception."

And quizzed about her position on gay-rights, Palin cited a homosexual friend whom she is close with before noting that she "made a choice" about her sexuality.

"I have," she said, "one of my absolute best friends for the last 30 years who happens to be gay and I love her dearly. And she is not my gay friend. She is one of my best friends who happens to have made a choice that isn't a choice that I would have made."

These positions may, in the long run, endear Palin even more to her conservative following. But combined with her failure to name a source of news she turns to, they are also bound to have people buzzing up through Thursday night's vice presidential debate.

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George Will: Palin Is Not Qualified

Famed conservative columnist George Will told a gathering of Senate aides on Monday that Gov. Sarah Palin is "obviously" not prepared to assume the presidency if necessary, two event attendees told the Huffington Post.

Appearing at a Senate Press Secretaries Association reception at the Cornerstone Government Affairs office, Will offered a harsh assessment of John McCain's running mate.

Palin is "obviously not qualified to be President," he remarked, describing her interview on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric as a "disaster."

Will did state, according to a second source, that Palin has received rough treatment from the media; arguing that the Alaska Governor would have been "skewered" by the press if she had made some of the same gaffes as Sen. Joe Biden has in recent weeks. But his sympathies only extended so far.

Will has already been critical of the other half of the Republican ticket, calling McCain's handling of the financial crisis "un-presidential" just one week ago. And in offering his take on Palin, the longtime Washington scribe becomes the latest in a list of respected conservative figures who have now soured on the Palin pick.

Last week, Kathleen Parker of the National Review penned a column calling on the Alaska Governor to be dropped from the ticket. New York Time's columnist David Brooks and former Bush speechwriter David Frum have also expressed their doubts about Palin's capacity for the vice presidential post.

Will, who did not return requests for comment., had also been previously critical of McCain's choice of Palin, writing a week after it was announced: "The man who would be the oldest to embark on a first presidential term has chosen as his possible successor a person of negligible experience." One week ago, meanwhile, Will penned a blistering op-ed about McCain, accusing him of practicing "fact-free slander," holding a "Manichaean worldview," and "characteristically substituting vehemence for coherence."

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Tom Brokaw Acting As NBC Liaison With McCain Campaign

Tuesday's New York Times features a profile of Tom Brokaw ahead of the October 7 presidential debate being hosted by the veteran NBC newsman. The Times reveals that Brokaw has "played a pivotal role out of public view, both within NBC and in its dealings with the campaign of John McCain in particular."

Mr. Brokaw said that over the summer he had "advocated" within the executive suite of NBC News to modify the anchor duties of the MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews on election night and on nights when there were presidential debates. Their expressions of strong political opinions from the MSNBC anchor desk has run counter to the more traditional role Mr. Brokaw played on "NBC Nightly News" for more than two decades. NBC said earlier this month that the two hosts would mostly relinquish their anchor duties to Mr. Gregory, while being present as analysts.

"Keith is an articulate guy who writes well and doesn't make his arguments in a 'So's your old mother' kind of way," Mr. Brokaw said. "The mistake was to think he could fill both roles. The other mistake was to think he wouldn't be tempted to use the anchor position to engage in commentary. That's who he is."

Brokaw said he has also conducted some "shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks" between NBC and the McCain campaign.

His mission, he said, was to assure the candidate's aides that -- despite some negative on-air commentary by Mr. Olbermann in particular -- Mr. McCain could still get a fair shake from NBC News. Mr. Brokaw said he had been told by a senior McCain aide, whom he did not name, that the campaign had been reluctant to accept an NBC representative as one of the moderators of the three presidential debates -- until his name was invoked.

"One of the things I was told by this person was that they were so irritated, they said, 'If it's an NBC moderator, for any of these debates, we won't go,' " Mr. Brokaw said. "My name came up, and they said, 'Oh, hell, we have to do it, because it's going to be Brokaw.' "

The article led off with the news that NBC is considering an ensemble of hosts for "Meet the Press," led by Chuck Todd:

[The network] is leaning toward an ensemble of hosts that would be led by Chuck Todd, NBC's political director, and include David Gregory, a correspondent and MSNBC anchor, according to a person who had been briefed on the proposal but was not authorized to comment, partly because the plans were not set. Like the turnover of anchors at all three network newscasts, the process of choosing a successor for Mr. Russert has been closely watched in media and political circles.
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Couric Interview: Palin Repeats Age Swipe At Biden (VIDEO)

Another day, another chance to see Katie Couric trap Sarah Palin in a rhetorical bind. This time Couric called out Palin for making a joke about Joe Biden's age when her running mate, John McCain, is 72-years old. The best part is Palin's explanation that her joke meant Americans need change over experience, and that's what she represents in comparison to Joe Biden. Hmmm... Isn't that Barack Obama's line?

Katie Couric: You made a funny comment, you've said you have been listening to Joe Biden's speeches since you were in second grade.

Gov. Palin: It's been since like '72, yah.

Katie Couric: You have a 72-year-old running mate, is that kind of a risky thing to say, insinuating that Joe Biden's been around awhile?

Gov. Palin: Oh no, it's nothing negative at all. He's got a lot of experience and just stating the fact there, that we've been hearing his speeches for all these years. So he's got a tremendous amount of experience and, you know, I'm the new energy, the new face, the new ideas and he's got the experience based on many many years in the Senate and voters are gonna have a choice there of what it is that they want in these next four years.

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MoveOn Demands Apology From Brokaw For Citing False Polling

On last Sunday's Meet The Press, Tom Brokaw closed down the show's Battle of the Campaign Flacks by deflecting the crux of David Axelrod's Iraq-judgement argument with poll numbers that he had at the ready:

MR. AXELROD: What has happened is, as Senator Obama predicted from the beginning, that we got distracted in Iraq and now Osama bin Laden, who was the person who attacked the United States, killed 3,000 American citizens, is now resurgent. He is stronger. And that's the result of the misbegotten decision of John McCain. And he stubbornly wants to continue, even as the Iraqis won't take responsibility, sitting on $79 billion of their own surplus while we spend $10 billion a month. It doesn't make sense. We can't take more of the same, Steve.

MR. BROKAW: In fairness to everybody here, I'm just going to end on one note, and that is that we continue to poll on who's best equipped to be commander in chief, and John McCain continues to lead in that category despite the criticism from Barack Obama by a factor of 53 to 42 percent in our latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.


These numbers sure seemed to blunt Axelrod's argument, but they also seemed to run counter to the polling taken immediately following the "foreign policy debate," in which result after result - in a manner confounding to the press, who initially had settled into the stance that the debate was a "tie" or a slight edge to Senator John McCain (not without exceptions) - indicated that the viewing public favored Senator Barack Obama's performance in the debate. As it turns out, those numbers weren't made up out of whole cloth, but they were certainly out of date.

MoveOn.org researched the matter, and found the polling numbers Brokaw was citing. They weren't in any recent poll conducted by NBC/WSJ. In fact, the recent NBC News/WSJ poll does not even include a question on "who's best equipped to be commander-in-chief." To get those 53-42 numbers, you have got to dial it back to the poll taken September 6-8 - significantly, the poll done after the Republican National Convention - to find those numbers sitting at question 14. The larger picture, of course, is that in head-to-head matchups - in NBC/WSJ now, NBC/WSJ then, all these polls from Sunday - is that those polled prefer Obama.

MoveOn has, naturally, asked Brokaw to apologize.

Brokaw's citation of those "commander-in-chief" numbers thus amount to something more akin to archaeology than reporting, so why'd he do it? Why is he tempting a gotcha-on-video moment from the poltergeist of Tim Russert this Christmas, as the ghosts of Brokaw's past, present, and future parade through his Yuletide nightmares? Maybe it was just an error, or some poor work by a researcher. Or maybe Brokaw was trying to be even-handed since he's appointed himself the personal NBC News handmaiden to the McCain campaign:

Brokaw said he has also conducted some "shuttle diplomacy in recent weeks" between NBC and the McCain campaign.

His mission, he said, was to assure the candidate's aides that -- despite some negative on-air commentary by Mr. Olbermann in particular -- Mr. McCain could still get a fair shake from NBC News. Mr. Brokaw said he had been told by a senior McCain aide, whom he did not name, that the campaign had been reluctant to accept an NBC representative as one of the moderators of the three presidential debates -- until his name was invoked.

"One of the things I was told by this person was that they were so irritated, they said, 'If it's an NBC moderator, for any of these debates, we won't go,' " Mr. Brokaw said. "My name came up, and they said, 'Oh, hell, we have to do it, because it's going to be Brokaw.' "

Shouldn't NBC News' consumers be the ones getting "a fair shake?" Just saying.

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Zakaria: McCain's VP decision is 'fundamentally irresponsible'

NEW YORK (CNN) -- In a column appearing in Newsweek, world affairs expert and author Fareed Zakaria said he thinks it would be best for Republican presidential hopeful John McCain if Gov. Sarah Palin bowed out as his vice presidential running mate.

Fareed Zakaria

"For him to choose Sarah Palin to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible," says Zakaria.

Zakaria says McCain did not put the country first in making his V.P. choice, and he says Palin is not qualified to lead the United States.

CNN spoke to him about his commentary titled, "Palin is ready? Please."

CNN: What did you initially think when Sarah Palin was announced as the Republican vice presidential nominee?

Zakaria: I was a bit surprised -- as I think most people were. But I was willing to give her a chance. And I thought her speech at the convention was clever and funny. But once she began answering questions about economics and foreign policy, it became clear that she has simply never thought about these subjects before and is dangerously ignorant and unprepared for the job of vice president, let alone president.

CNN: You don't think she is qualified?

Zakaria: No. Gov. Palin has been given a set of talking points by campaign advisers, simple ideological mantras that she repeats and repeats as long as she can. But if forced off those rehearsed lines, what she has to say is often, quite frankly -- nonsense. Just listen to her response to Katie Couric's question about the bailout. It's gibberish -- an emptying out of catchphrases about economics that have nothing to do with the question or the topic. It's scary to think that this person could be running the country.

Here is their exchange:

Katie Couric: Why isn't it better, Gov. Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

Gov. Sarah Palin: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the -- it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

CNN: But Dan Quayle wasn't very qualified and that didn't seem to matter, did it?

Zakaria: This is way beyond Dan Quayle. Quayle was a lightweight who was prone to scramble his words, or say things that sounded weird, but you almost always knew what he meant. One of his most famous miscues was to the United Negro College Fund when he said, "What a terrible thing to have lost one's mind. Or not to have a mind at all." Now he was trying to play off a famous ad that the group used to run, "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste." And he screwed it up in a funny way. But read Gov. Palin's answers and it does appear that she doesn't have any understanding about the topic under discussion.

CNN: But she has a lot of supporters.

Zakaria: Look, I'm not saying that she is not a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. It is just we are talking about a person who should be ready to lead the United States at a moment's notice. She has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start.

CNN: Does it make you concerned about Sen. McCain as a president?

Zakaria: Yes, and I say this with sadness because I greatly admire John McCain, a man of intelligence, honor and enormous personal and political courage. However, for him to choose Sara Palin to be his running mate is fundamentally irresponsible. He did not put the country first with this decision. Whether it is appropriate or not, considering Sen. McCain's age most people expected to have a vice presidential candidate who would be ready to step in at a moment's notice. The actuarial odds of that happening are significant, something like a one-in-five chance.

Original here

Misleading Claims by McCain on Obama’s Tax Plans


One of the sharpest exchanges Friday night in the presidential debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama came on the issue of taxes. When Mr. McCain charged that his opponent had “voted in the United States Senate to increase taxes on people who make as low as $42,000 a year,” Mr. Obama replied: “That’s not true, John. That’s not true.”

“That’s just a fact,” Mr. McCain responded. “Again, you can look it up.”

So what does the record say when you look it up? Is one candidate right and the other wrong, or are both exaggerating?

In the past, Mr. McCain has characterized Mr. Obama’s position on taxes in ways that proved to be demonstrably inaccurate. His remarks on Friday night, which he amplified on the campaign trail on Monday, seemed to be an effort to shift him away from that shaky ground. However, they too contain assertions that are misleading or overstated.

Mr. McCain’s campaign has made it clear that he intends to portray Mr. Obama as an advocate of tax increases in the home stretch of the presidential race. Appearing Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC, Mr. McCain’s senior strategist, Steve Schmidt, said Mr. Obama’s voting record on taxes was “different from what he says out on the campaign trail” and was “a recipe for disaster for the economy.”

The basis of Mr. McCain’s accusation is that Mr. Obama has voted twice this year for Democratic-supported resolutions on the budget for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins Wednesday. In those nonbinding resolutions, Mr. Obama and others, including two Republicans, voted to allow the tax cuts that President Bush pushed through Congress in 2001 and 2003 to expire at the end of 2010, as envisioned in the original legislation.

The budget resolutions are merely a blueprint and do not have the force of law. But even if they indicate a propensity by Mr. Obama to vote to raise taxes — something he and his campaign would fiercely dispute — there is a question of whether the vote would raise taxes at all.

“It strikes me as a bizarre proposition and a false premise to argue that you are voting for a tax increase by not voting to cut taxes,” said Bob Williams, senior research associate at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center in Washington. “Not voting in favor of extending something into the future does not seem to me to be voting for a tax increase.”

Mr. Williams, formerly the assistant director of tax analysis at the Congressional Budget Office, attributed Mr. McCain’s claim to what he called “the silly season” of the presidential campaign. “They are both so anxious to find something to make the other guy look wrong,” he said.

Mr. Williams pointed out that Mr. Obama had “pushed the same kind of demagoguery as regards Social Security” by falsely accusing Mr. McCain of wanting to cut benefits in half.

The bottom line is that if passed into law without accompanying tax relief measures, the budget resolutions that Mr. Obama endorsed would raise taxes for some individuals making $42,000 a year. But it would not raise taxes for all of them. For a single taxpayer with no dependents, the amount of that increase would be $15. A single taxpayer with one child earning $58,000 or less, however, would not pay additional taxes.

In his presidential platform, Mr. Obama has also proposed several measures to mitigate the impact of letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Under his plan, only individuals making $200,000 or more and families earning more than $250,000 a year, accounting for less than 2 percent of the population, would pay additional taxes, and more than 90 percent of the population would receive a tax break of some sort.

“It is our position that if in 2011 the Bush tax cuts expire, we would define that as a tax increase,” said Mr. Obama’s chief economic adviser, Jason Furman. “The Obama plan is designed to prevent a tax increase that George Bush signed into law.”

In remarks on the campaign trail on Monday in Columbus, Ohio, Mr. McCain broadened his accusations, saying that Mr. Obama had “never voted to cut your taxes” and was “always cheering for higher taxes or against tax relief.”

Mr. McCain himself originally opposed the Bush tax cuts, saying they were a fiscally irresponsible gift to the wealthy “at the expense of middle-class Americans who need tax relief.” But he now favors extending them permanently.

Mr. McCain’s accusations on Friday and Monday are the latest iteration of a line of attack that his campaign has been employing for several months, after an earlier claim that Mr. Obama was proposing “the largest single tax increase since World War II” was debunked by economists and tax experts.

The McCain campaign originally maintained that Mr. Obama’s support of the nonbinding budget resolution meant he would raise taxes on those making as little as $32,500 a year. That failed to distinguish between total income and taxable income.

But even after adopting the $42,000 figure as his benchmark, Mr. McCain went on to misrepresent his opponent’s position. In a Spanish-language advertisement, for example, the McCain campaign has said that Mr. Obama favors raising taxes on “families” making $42,000 a year.

That figure is incorrect as well. In reality, a family of four with annual income of up to $90,000, to take one example, would not have been affected even in the unlikely event that the Democratic budget resolution were to be enacted with no accompanying tax relief for the middle class.

In an English-language Web advertisement issued in August, Mr. McCain also claimed that Mr. Obama favored “a tax increase for everyone earning more than $42,000 a year.” That statement is patently false. Under Mr. Obama’s tax proposal, those in the middle of the middle class — people earning $37,000 to $66,000 a year — would receive a tax cut of more than $1,000 a year, more than three times what Mr. McCain is proposing in his tax platform.

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Bush Sidesteps Congress? $630 Billion To Be Pumped Into Economy Despite House Bailout Rejection

By: Logan Murphy


The Federal Reserve will pump an additional $630 billion into the global financial system, flooding banks with cash to alleviate the worst banking crisis since the Great Depression.

The Fed increased its existing currency swaps with foreign central banks by $330 billion to $620 billion to make more dollars available worldwide. The Term Auction Facility, the Fed’s emergency loan program, will expand by $300 billion to $450 billion. The European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan are among the participating authorities.

The Fed’s expansion of liquidity, the biggest since credit markets seized up last year, came hours before the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a $700 billion bailout for the financial industry. The crisis is reverberating through the global economy, causing stocks to plunge and forcing European governments to rescue four banks over the past two days alone. Read on…

I’m not an expert on the economy or Wall St., but this sure looks like an end-around by the Bush administration to give away hundreds of billions of dollars without the approval of Congress.

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Analysis: McCain hits political dead end

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON: Republican John McCain has maneuvered himself into a political dead end and has five weeks to find his way out.

Last Wednesday, McCain suspended his presidential campaign to insert himself into a $700 billion effort to rescue America's crumbling financial structure. In so doing, he tied himself far more tightly to the bill than did his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama.

Then, as the bailout plan appeared ready for passage Monday in the House of Representatives, McCain bragged that he was an action-oriented Teddy Roosevelt Republican who did not sit on the sidelines at a moment of crisis.

The implication: that he played a critical role in building bipartisan support for the unprecedented bailout.

"I went to Washington last week to make sure that the taxpayers of Ohio and across this great country were not left footing the bill for mistakes made on Wall Street and in Washington," McCain said at a campaign rally in swing-state Ohio.

Both he and Obama had insisted the plan originally proposed by the Bush administration be strengthened with greater oversight and regulation.

Within hours, however, the measure died in the House mainly at the hands of McCain's own Republicans.

Initially, McCain went silent, choosing instead to send his chief economic adviser out with a statement that blamed Obama, claiming that the first-term Illinois senator — who would be the country's first black president — had put his political ambitions ahead of the good of the country.

"This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country," McCain senior policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin said in a statement.

It wasn't long, however, before McCain told reporters in Iowa: "Now is not the time to fix the blame, it's time to fix the problem."

All in all, McCain might have been better served by staying out of the mess and above the fray.

If Congress' impasse leads to a credit crisis, "it's not going to be good for McCain," said veteran Republican consultant John Feehery.

Obama had predicted trouble last week when he said the four-term Arizona senator was wrongly inserting red-hot presidential politics into a critical bailout plan even as the package was finding little support among American voters.

As the plan failed Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 780 points, the largest one-day point drop ever. Credit markets, whose turmoil helped feed the stock market's deep anxiety, froze up further with the growing belief that the country is headed into a spreading credit and economic crisis.

Stunned traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange watched on TV screens as the House voted down the plan, and they saw stock prices tumbling on their monitors.

After the House defeated the bailout, Obama — campaigning in swing-state Colorado — declared McCain had "fought against commonsense regulations for decades, he's called for less regulation 20 times just this year, and he said in a recent interview that he thought deregulation has actually helped grow our economy."

"Senator, what economy are you talking about?" Obama asked.

Sensing Obama's advantage, spokesman Bill Burton piled it on:

"This is a moment of national crisis, and today's inaction in Congress as well as the angry and hyper-partisan statement released by the McCain campaign are exactly why the American people are disgusted with Washington."

McCain has been routinely wrong-footed on the slumping U.S. economy throughout the campaign, starting from last year when he said he was not as up on that subject as he would like to be.

Polls have consistently shown voters place greater trust in Obama to pull the country out of a financial crisis that has not been matched since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

McCain — apparently obsessed with those facts — gambled last Wednesday by declaring he had suspended campaigning to bring his considerable bipartisan credentials to bear in congressional negotiations with the Bush administration. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson sent the enormous bailout package to Congress 11 days ago and said passage was urgent.

The measure went down 228-205, with more than two-thirds of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats opposed.

Befitting the history being made on Capitol Hill, legislative leaders matched their rhetoric to the occasion.

"The legislation may have failed; the crisis is still with us," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat. "What happened today cannot stand."

Republicans blamed Pelosi's scathing speech near the close of the debate — which attacked President George W. Bush's economic policies and a "right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation" — for the vote's failure.

"We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House," said Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican.

Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the House whip, estimated that Pelosi's speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.

That was a remarkable accusation by Republicans against Republicans, said Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

"Because somebody hurt their feelings, they decided to punish the country," he deadpanned.

Original here

McCain: Now Is Not The Time For Blame, But I Blame Obama

At 5:15 p.m Monday evening, Sen. John McCain addressed a pool of reporters in Ohio, declaring that it was not the appropriate time or place for people to cast blame on Congress' failure to pass an economic bailout package.

"Now is not the time to affix the blame. It's time to fix the problem. I would hope that all our leaders, all of them, can put aside short-term political goals and do what's in the best interests of the American people."

It was an utter farce of a call for political level-headedness. The very sentence before McCain uttered those words, he lambasted "Senator Obama and his allies in Congress" for infusing "unnecessary partisanship into the process."


Ten minutes later, the Republican National Committee blasted out an email with the following subject header: "Obama Stood By, Did Nothing, And Showed No Leadership On The Bailout Negotiations."

Ten minutes after that, McCain's economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin blamed Democrats in the Congress for foiling the bill.

"Today that process broke down and it broke down quite frankly from partisan attacks from Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi on the floor," he said, "and quite frankly after a partisan attack, Republicans chose to fold their cards and rather than rise above those attacks they chose to walk away from the bill."

In fact, slightly more than an hour before McCain made his plea to cast political conflicts aside, his campaign -- through Holtz-Eakin -- was ripping Obama for a failure of leadership on the issue.

"Barack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain, and refused to even say if he supported the final bill," he said.

Asked to explain the seeming incongruity of it all, Holtz Eakin was evasive.

"I have sat in frustration and watched the tone of the attack over John McCain as he was accused of injecting presidential politics," he said, "when in fact he made every effort not to inject himself into the Senate and House negotiations... he has done in my estimation the finest of jobs in this, taking a process that was dead in the water and bring it to a vote today."

Now, attacking the opposition while simultaneously putting your hands up in innocence is nothing new in politics. But the actions of the McCain campaign late Monday indicate, at the very least, that they recognize a problematic narrative developing in political and media circles. The Senator wagered heavily on "suspending" his campaign, even taking credit for a bailout passage Sunday and Monday. In order to not seem political, he clung to the idea that he was forging a bipartisan compromise. When the proposal fell short of passage he didn't want the responsibility anymore, but the campaign still doesn't want to look like it's making electoral hay out of the crisis. And so, one gets these disjointed statements.

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McCain camp claims credit over bailout changes

by Jitendra Joshi

CHICAGO (AFP) - John McCain's presidential campaign claimed credit as Congress readied Monday to vote on an emergency economic package, but Democrats said the Republican's last-ditch intervention had been no help.
Mitt Romney, McCain's erstwhile rival for the Republican nomination, said the deal on a Wall Street bailout worth up to 700 billion dollars would never have happened without the Arizona sena

Speaking on NBC television, the former Massachusetts governor said "this bill would not have been agreed to had it not been for John McCain."

"That doesn't mean that he's the only guy doing that. And there many people ... who have been critical to it," Romney said.

"But, you know, this is a bipartisan accomplishment, a bipartisan success. And if people want to get something done in Washington, they just watch John McCain," he said.

"He's been the guy whose name is at the top of major pieces of legislation for a long time."

Both McCain and his Democratic rival in the November 4 election, Barack Obama, said they would reluctantly sign up to a drastically reworked deal permitting the Treasury to buy up sour mortgage-backed assets.

A vote in the House of Representatives, where Republican opposition to the bailout has been strongest, was due Monday. The Senate, where both McCain and Obama sit, was not expected to take up the measure until Wednesday.

One of the architects of the bill struck after a weekend breakthrough among legislators, Senate banking committee chairman Christopher Dodd, said he had been in regular contact with his Democratic colleague Obama.

"With all fairness, I called him up a lot of times, but to suggest presidential politics was a help here is a bit of an exaggeration, to put it mildly," Dodd said on NBC.

Democrats accused McCain of sabotaging a deal last week through political grandstanding after the Republican, in a high-stakes gamble, said he was suspending his campaign and rushing back to Washington.

Obama on Sunday said McCain's response to the Wall Street crisis had been "Katrina-like," evoking the US government's bungled handling of the hurricane that drowned New Orleans in 2005.

Gallup's tracking poll Sunday, which took into account McCain's dramatic gambit and voters' initial reactions to Friday's first presidential debate, had Obama ahead of McCain by a yawning 50 percent to 42.

The next debate comes Thursday in a hotly anticipated clash between the White House running mates, Democrat Joseph Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, whose meandering performance in a CBS interview last week was widely mocked.

The expectations game was in full swing as Romney said Alaska Governor Palin would be going up against a "veritable wall of words" in Biden, the veteran chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee.

"But I think if you looked at her debate performance as the governor of Alaska, you're going to see a person who can hold her own," he said.

"She's a very confident, well-spoken, thoughtful individual, and I think she's going to do real well. But you know, there's nothing like being able to create low expectations, and that's certainly being done for her."

Dodd said his Senate colleague Biden would handle the debate "very, very well."

"But people need to think beyond the debate. Who do you want sitting next to the president when you're dealing with these major issues?" he said.

"Joe Biden has been the chairman of the foreign relations committee for years, knows these issues thoroughly. And to have a (person a) heartbeat away from the presidency is a critical question."

Obama was heading West Monday with his latest campaign rally in the battleground state of Colorado. McCain and Palin were appearing together in Ohio.

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New Urgency Over McCain Medical Questions As Election Nears

Over the last few weeks, the issues of John McCain's age and health have been pushed, with much resistance, back into the heart of the political discussion. Prompted in part by the selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate, the topic crested with the release of a political advertisement calling attention to McCain's history of skin cancer and the need for more information about his medical records.

Cable news stations were too skittish to run the spot, produced by Brave New PAC. CNN refused to air it, Fox's Bill O'Reilly called it shameful, and MSNBC, which initially aired the ad, reversed course and took it off the air.

All of which has come to the anger and befuddlement of Democrats as well as members of the medical community, both of whom ask a very basic question: what more important information is needed to elect a president other than his fitness for office?

"I don't see anything wrong with opening up the discussion," said Ronald Bronow, former chief of dermatology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "What we want to know is, what stage is this melanoma? Particularly with the prospect of the vice president becoming the president... If you are an objective physician, you have to be concerned about this."

With just weeks before election day, McCain's campaign says it has released all of the information needed to make a thorough assessment of his health, and then some. In late May, the Senator allowed the vetting of over 1,000 pages of his records that showed him in generally good condition despite having skin cancer eight years ago. But the process was far from transparent.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN's medical correspondent who was one of only a handful of reporters allowed into the review, summarized the problems to the Huffington Post:

"We were given three hours to go over 1,200 pages of records. That is a lot to go through. It was very sort of cloak and dagger and I'm sure they had their reasons. Given that I had my medical training, I was able to hone in on what it thought was important more quickly. But the pages weren't numbered, so I had no way of knowing what was missing... As a reporter I can only comment on what I saw but I can't say by any means that this was complete... As far as the secretiveness of it, what they said to us is that you can't take anything out of the room, but you could make notes. So it was a lot to go through in a short period of time."

Provided with only a scant review of the information, questions have begun to rise as to the danger of McCain's most recent bout with cancer. Bronow noted that there are two reports detailing the stage of McCain's latest (his fourth) bout with melanoma. One report put it at a stage 2a, which has a relatively high five-year survival rate; another put it at a stage 3b, which is much more dire in nature.

"As a dermatologist, if I hear about a stage three melanoma, I say 'My God this guy is walking on nails here," said Bronow. "There is that much difference between a stage 2 and a stage 3."

Asked to detail his notes, Gupta said the pathology report - which lists the size and other attributes of the cancer removed - indicated a stage 2a:

"It was 2 centimeters across, 0.22 centimeters deep, and not ulcerated, which gives him a 66 percent survival rate over ten years. Melanoma is a particularly aggressive cancer. Mainly because skin is the largest organ in the body it can spread to the lungs, liver and the brain... Most of the occurrences will occur right away. I am reassured by the fact that it has been eight years now and there hasn't been a reemergence of that melanoma."

And yet, the debate over the status of McCain's health is accompanied by a separate, equally significant argument: mainly, what level of medical disclosure should voters demand of presidential candidates? As Bronow noted, Barack Obama has given the public far less information on his health than McCain - a one-page report detailing the last 21 years of care he has received.

"Let's have the same thing for him," he said. "Let's have a complete disclosure of everything. It isn't just McCain."

And as Gupta argued, there is something sadly ironic with the fact that physicians and airline pilots are required to release medical records, but not the would-be president of the United States.

"[Former Senator] Paul Tsongas -- when he ran for office in 1992, he was a cancer survivor at that point, but said he had been cured," recalled Gupta. "We now know that had he been elected to a second term, he would have died in office. It was Tsongas who went to Clinton and said we should really have a requirement for the release of physical and mental medical records. Which, looking back now, is pretty remarkable."

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200 former U.S. diplomats endorse Obama

Republican Presidential Nominee Sen. John McCain (AZ) and Democratic Presidential Nominee Sen. Barack Obama (IL) shake hands after the first presidential debate, moderated by journalist Jim Lehrer, at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, on September 26, 2008. The debate went on despite McCain's call for postponement in the face of the current economic crises.   (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)
Republican Presidential Nominee Sen. John McCain (AZ) and Democratic Presidential Nominee Sen. Barack Obama (IL) shake hands after the first presidential debate, moderated by journalist Jim Lehrer, at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi, on September 26, 2008. The debate went on despite McCain's call for postponement in the face of the current economic crises. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)

More than 200 former U.S. diplomats have signed a statement announcing their support for Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

The former diplomats and ambassadors signed the statement before the Friday debate between Obama and Republican nominee John McCain.

"We are supporting Senator Barack Obama because of his judgment, experience, and ability to inspire people to come together around a common purpose," the letter said. "Senator Obama's talents offer an historic opportunity; for the sake of America's security and standing in the world, we must seize it."

The letter, signed by officials from both major political parties, said the foreign policies of the Bush administration have diminished America's alliances abroad.

"As former diplomats, we believe it is past time that we had a President with the judgment and confidence -- in himself, our diplomatic corps, and our values -- to talk directly to America's adversaries with due preparation but without preconditions," the letter said.

The signatories include former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, former National Security Adviser Richard Clarke and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk.

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McCain takes credit for bill before it loses


John McCain

“I've never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I'm not going to stop now,” John McCain told a rally in Columbus, Ohio.
Photo: AP

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his top aides took credit for building a winning bailout coalition – hours before the vote failed and stocks tanked.

Shortly before the vote, McCain had bragged about his involvement and mocked Sen. Barack Obama for staying on the sidelines.

“I've never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I'm not going to stop now,” McCain told a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “Sen. Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn't want to get involved. Then he was monitoring the situation.”
McCain, grinning, flashed a sarcastic thumbs up.

“That's not leadership. That's watching from the sidelines,” he added to cheers and applause.

Doug Holtz-Eakin, McCain's senior policy adviser, told reporters on a conference call that McCain "dedicated the past week" to addressing the problem but made "a conscious decision not to attract attention to John McCain."

"He's made dozens of calls," Holtz-Eakin said.

Asked if McCain bears any responsibility for the bill's failure, Holtz-Eakin said McCain "improved it greatly — took the lead in the need for taxpayer protections."

Making a similar point earlier on MSNBC, Holtz-Eakin said McCain deliberately "kept a low profile."

"John McCain understands that had he looked like he was going to be the key to the success, that Democrats would attack him and kill the deal," Holtz-Eakin said. "That's what you saw today. They were not going to let John McCain do the job that he was trying to do: deliver a bill that would help the American people."

"John McCain understood that had he kept a low profile, talked with members of Congress as he did, asked them where they were in their votes, called those members who were reluctant. He was doing his job, and doing it with a low profile [that was] necessary," Holtz-Eakin added.

Holtz-Eakin told MSNBC that Obama was "phoning it in" instead of working hard on a rescue. "Where was Barack Obama for today?" Holtz-Eakin said. "He's phoning it in — phoning it in — one more time."

McCain initially had been modest about his role. On Sunday, he said on ABC’s “This Week” that congressional negotiators deserve “great credit” for the bipartisan deal. “"It wasn’t because of me,” McCain said. “They did it themselves.”

But at almost the same time, McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt was saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “What Sen. McCain was able to do … was to help get all of the parties to the table. There had been announcements by Senate leaders saying that a deal had been reached earlier in the week. There were no votes for that deal.

“Sen. McCain knew time was short and he came back, he listened and he helped put together the framework of getting everybody to the table, which was necessary to produce a package to avoid a financial catastrophe for this country.”

On Monday morning, McCain campaign communications director Jill Hazelbaker said on Fox News that the deal would not have happened “without Sen. McCain.”

“Sen. McCain interrupted his campaign, suspended his campaign activity to come back to Washington to get Republicans around a table,” Hazelbaker said. “Without Sen. McCain, House Republicans would not have appointed a negotiator, which would not have moved this bill forward.

“It’s really Sen. McCain who got all parties around a table to hammer out a deal that hopefully is in the best interests of the American taxpayer.”

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Conservatives try to sabotage McCain's loss by asking Sarah to drop out

Kathleen Parker, a conservative columnist for the National Review Online, is calling for Sarah Palin to drop out of the race.

"Palin can save McCain, her party, and the country she loves. She can bow out for personal reasons, perhaps because she wants to spend more time with her newborn. No one would criticize a mother who puts her family first."

Sarah, darling, don't listen to that nasty slut Kathleen Parker. She has an ulterior motive- she's trying to get McCain in the White House. I'm not.

Seriously, Sarah Heath Palin, I can't live without you. Like Paulson to Pelosi, I'm on my knees, begging you to be my partner in comedy until Nov 4th, when Barack Obama sends you and the entire GOP back to Wasilla with gift baskets of condoms and rape kits.

Every word that shoots from your sarcastic yet uninformed mouth is a gift from God. (Or a witch!) And Sarah, you head my favorite family since the Brady Bunch. The adorably miserable Bristol, soldier-boy Track and his coke habit, the Christchild Trig, Piper the licker and Willow, the mysterious one. Don't get me started on the Eskimo husband Todd who keeps puttin' it in ya after all these years. Do you know how many Palin stories we've done? 234. Whoops, this one-235. Never mind. The number rises quicker than the debt clock.

Just today, new video emerged of your swimsuit walk in the Miss Alaska competition. Yes, you were a runner up in Miss Alaska, and yes, you will lose Miss Vice-President, but 23/6 has a more impressive crown, Miss Internet Traffic.

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The Economic Consequences of Mr. Bush

The next president will have to deal with yet another crippling legacy of George W. Bush: the economy. A Nobel laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, sees a generation-long struggle to recoup.

by Joseph E. Stiglitz

The American economy can take a lot of abuse, but no economy is invincible. Illustration by Edward Sorel.

When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the Iraq war, the shame of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page.

I can hear an irritated counterthrust already. The president has not driven the United States into a recession during his almost seven years in office. Unemployment stands at a respectable 4.6 percent. Well, fine. But the other side of the ledger groans with distress: a tax code that has become hideously biased in favor of the rich; a national debt that will probably have grown 70 percent by the time this president leaves Washington; a swelling cascade of mortgage defaults; a record near-$850 billion trade deficit; oil prices that are higher than they have ever been; and a dollar so weak that for an American to buy a cup of coffee in London or Paris—or even the Yukon—becomes a venture in high finance.

And it gets worse. After almost seven years of this president, the United States is less prepared than ever to face the future. We have not been educating enough engineers and scientists, people with the skills we will need to compete with China and India. We have not been investing in the kinds of basic research that made us the technological powerhouse of the late 20th century. And although the president now understands—or so he says—that we must begin to wean ourselves from oil and coal, we have on his watch become more deeply dependent on both.

Up to now, the conventional wisdom has been that Herbert Hoover, whose policies aggravated the Great Depression, is the odds-on claimant for the mantle “worst president” when it comes to stewardship of the American economy. Once Franklin Roosevelt assumed office and reversed Hoover’s policies, the country began to recover. The economic effects of Bush’s presidency are more insidious than those of Hoover, harder to reverse, and likely to be longer-lasting. There is no threat of America’s being displaced from its position as the world’s richest economy. But our grandchildren will still be living with, and struggling with, the economic consequences of Mr. Bush.

Remember the Surplus?

The world was a very different place, economically speaking, when George W. Bush took office, in January 2001. During the Roaring 90s, many had believed that the Internet would transform everything. Productivity gains, which had averaged about 1.5 percent a year from the early 1970s through the early 90s, now approached 3 percent. During Bill Clinton’s second term, gains in manufacturing productivity sometimes even surpassed 6 percent. The Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, spoke of a New Economy marked by continued productivity gains as the Internet buried the old ways of doing business. Others went so far as to predict an end to the business cycle. Greenspan worried aloud about how he’d ever be able to manage monetary policy once the nation’s debt was fully paid off.

This tremendous confidence took the Dow Jones index higher and higher. The rich did well, but so did the not-so-rich and even the downright poor. The Clinton years were not an economic Nirvana; as chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers during part of this time, I’m all too aware of mistakes and lost opportunities. The global-trade agreements we pushed through were often unfair to developing countries. We should have invested more in infrastructure, tightened regulation of the securities markets, and taken additional steps to promote energy conservation. We fell short because of politics and lack of money—and also, frankly, because special interests sometimes shaped the agenda more than they should have. But these boom years were the first time since Jimmy Carter that the deficit was under control. And they were the first time since the 1970s that incomes at the bottom grew faster than those at the top—a benchmark worth celebrating.

By the time George W. Bush was sworn in, parts of this bright picture had begun to dim. The tech boom was over. The nasdaq fell 15 percent in the single month of April 2000, and no one knew for sure what effect the collapse of the Internet bubble would have on the real economy. It was a moment ripe for Keynesian economics, a time to prime the pump by spending more money on education, technology, and infrastructure—all of which America desperately needed, and still does, but which the Clinton administration had postponed in its relentless drive to eliminate the deficit. Bill Clinton had left President Bush in an ideal position to pursue such policies. Remember the presidential debates in 2000 between Al Gore and George Bush, and how the two men argued over how to spend America’s anticipated $2.2 trillion budget surplus? The country could well have afforded to ramp up domestic investment in key areas. In fact, doing so would have staved off recession in the short run while spurring growth in the long run.

But the Bush administration had its own ideas. The first major economic initiative pursued by the president was a massive tax cut for the rich, enacted in June of 2001. Those with incomes over a million got a tax cut of $18,000—more than 30 times larger than the cut received by the average American. The inequities were compounded by a second tax cut, in 2003, this one skewed even more heavily toward the rich. Together these tax cuts, when fully implemented and if made permanent, mean that in 2012 the average reduction for an American in the bottom 20 percent will be a scant $45, while those with incomes of more than $1 million will see their tax bills reduced by an average of $162,000.

The administration crows that the economy grew—by some 16 percent—during its first six years, but the growth helped mainly people who had no need of any help, and failed to help those who need plenty. A rising tide lifted all yachts. Inequality is now widening in America, and at a rate not seen in three-quarters of a century. A young male in his 30s today has an income, adjusted for inflation, that is 12 percent less than what his father was making 30 years ago. Some 5.3 million more Americans are living in poverty now than were living in poverty when Bush became president. America’s class structure may not have arrived there yet, but it’s heading in the direction of Brazil’s and Mexico’s.

The Bankruptcy Boom

In breathtaking disregard for the most basic rules of fiscal propriety, the administration continued to cut taxes even as it undertook expensive new spending programs and embarked on a financially ruinous “war of choice” in Iraq. A budget surplus of 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (G.D.P.), which greeted Bush as he took office, turned into a deficit of 3.6 percent in the space of four years. The United States had not experienced a turnaround of this magnitude since the global crisis of World War II.

Agricultural subsidies were doubled between 2002 and 2005. Tax expenditures—the vast system of subsidies and preferences hidden in the tax code—increased more than a quarter. Tax breaks for the president’s friends in the oil-and-gas industry increased by billions and billions of dollars. Yes, in the five years after 9/11, defense expenditures did increase (by some 70 percent), though much of the growth wasn’t helping to fight the War on Terror at all, but was being lost or outsourced in failed missions in Iraq. Meanwhile, other funds continued to be spent on the usual high-tech gimcrackery—weapons that don’t work, for enemies we don’t have. In a nutshell, money was being spent everyplace except where it was needed. During these past seven years the percentage of G.D.P. spent on research and development outside defense and health has fallen. Little has been done about our decaying infrastructure—be it levees in New Orleans or bridges in Minneapolis. Coping with most of the damage will fall to the next occupant of the White House.

Although it railed against entitlement programs for the needy, the administration enacted the largest increase in entitlements in four decades—the poorly designed Medicare prescription-drug benefit, intended as both an election-season bribe and a sop to the pharmaceutical industry. As internal documents later revealed, the true cost of the measure was hidden from Congress. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies received special favors. To access the new benefits, elderly patients couldn’t opt to buy cheaper medications from Canada or other countries. The law also prohibited the U.S. government, the largest single buyer of prescription drugs, from negotiating with drug manufacturers to keep costs down. As a result, American consumers pay far more for medications than people elsewhere in the developed world.

You’ll still hear some—and, loudly, the president himself—argue that the administration’s tax cuts were meant to stimulate the economy, but this was never true. The bang for the buck—the amount of stimulus per dollar of deficit—was astonishingly low. Therefore, the job of economic stimulation fell to the Federal Reserve Board, which stepped on the accelerator in a historically unprecedented way, driving interest rates down to 1 percent. In real terms, taking inflation into account, interest rates actually dropped to negative 2 percent. The predictable result was a consumer spending spree. Looked at another way, Bush’s own fiscal irresponsibility fostered irresponsibility in everyone else. Credit was shoveled out the door, and subprime mortgages were made available to anyone this side of life support. Credit-card debt mounted to a whopping $900 billion by the summer of 2007. “Qualified at birth” became the drunken slogan of the Bush era. American households took advantage of the low interest rates, signed up for new mortgages with “teaser” initial rates, and went to town on the proceeds.

All of this spending made the economy look better for a while; the president could (and did) boast about the economic statistics. But the consequences for many families would become apparent within a few years, when interest rates rose and mortgages proved impossible to repay. The president undoubtedly hoped the reckoning would come sometime after 2008. It arrived 18 months early. As many as 1.7 million Americans are expected to lose their homes in the months ahead. For many, this will mean the beginning of a downward spiral into poverty.

Between March 2006 and March 2007 personal-bankruptcy rates soared more than 60 percent. As families went into bankruptcy, more and more of them came to understand who had won and who had lost as a result of the president’s 2005 bankruptcy bill, which made it harder for individuals to discharge their debts in a reasonable way. The lenders that had pressed for “reform” had been the clear winners, gaining added leverage and protections for themselves; people facing financial distress got the shaft.

And Then There’s Iraq

The war in Iraq (along with, to a lesser extent, the war in Afghanistan) has cost the country dearly in blood and treasure. The loss in lives can never be quantified. As for the treasure, it’s worth calling to mind that the administration, in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, was reluctant to venture an estimate of what the war would cost (and publicly humiliated a White House aide who suggested that it might run as much as $200 billion). When pressed to give a number, the administration suggested $50 billion—what the United States is actually spending every few months. Today, government figures officially acknowledge that more than half a trillion dollars total has been spent by the U.S. “in theater.” But in fact the overall cost of the conflict could be quadruple that amount—as a study I did with Linda Bilmes of Harvard has pointed out—even as the Congressional Budget Office now concedes that total expenditures are likely to be more than double the spending on operations. The official numbers do not include, for instance, other relevant expenditures hidden in the defense budget, such as the soaring costs of recruitment, with re-enlistment bonuses of as much as $100,000. They do not include the lifetime of disability and health-care benefits that will be required by tens of thousands of wounded veterans, as many as 20 percent of whom have suffered devastating brain and spinal injuries. Astonishingly, they do not include much of the cost of the equipment that has been used in the war, and that will have to be replaced. If you also take into account the costs to the economy from higher oil prices and the knock-on effects of the war—for instance, the depressing domino effect that war-fueled uncertainty has on investment, and the difficulties U.S. firms face overseas because America is the most disliked country in the world—the total costs of the Iraq war mount, even by a conservative estimate, to at least $2 trillion. To which one needs to add these words: so far.

It is natural to wonder, What would this money have bought if we had spent it on other things? U.S. aid to all of Africa has been hovering around $5 billion a year, the equivalent of less than two weeks of direct Iraq-war expenditures. The president made a big deal out of the financial problems facing Social Security, but the system could have been repaired for a century with what we have bled into the sands of Iraq. Had even a fraction of that $2 trillion been spent on investments in education and technology, or improving our infrastructure, the country would be in a far better position economically to meet the challenges it faces in the future, including threats from abroad. For a sliver of that $2 trillion we could have provided guaranteed access to higher education for all qualified Americans.

The soaring price of oil is clearly related to the Iraq war. The issue is not whether to blame the war for this but simply how much to blame it. It seems unbelievable now to recall that Bush-administration officials before the invasion suggested not only that Iraq’s oil revenues would pay for the war in its entirety—hadn’t we actually turned a tidy profit from the 1991 Gulf War?—but also that war was the best way to ensure low oil prices. In retrospect, the only big winners from the war have been the oil companies, the defense contractors, and al-Qaeda. Before the war, the oil markets anticipated that the then price range of $20 to $25 a barrel would continue for the next three years or so. Market players expected to see more demand from China and India, sure, but they also anticipated that this greater demand would be met mostly by increased production in the Middle East. The war upset that calculation, not so much by curtailing oil production in Iraq, which it did, but rather by heightening the sense of insecurity everywhere in the region, suppressing future investment.

The continuing reliance on oil, regardless of price, points to one more administration legacy: the failure to diversify America’s energy resources. Leave aside the environmental reasons for weaning the world from hydrocarbons—the president has never convincingly embraced them, anyway. The economic and national-security arguments ought to have been powerful enough. Instead, the administration has pursued a policy of “drain America first”—that is, take as much oil out of America as possible, and as quickly as possible, with as little regard for the environment as one can get away with, leaving the country even more dependent on foreign oil in the future, and hope against hope that nuclear fusion or some other miracle will come to the rescue. So many gifts to the oil industry were included in the president’s 2003 energy bill that John McCain referred to it as the “No Lobbyist Left Behind” bill.

Contempt for the World

America’s budget and trade deficits have grown to record highs under President Bush. To be sure, deficits don’t have to be crippling in and of themselves. If a business borrows to buy a machine, it’s a good thing, not a bad thing. During the past six years, America—its government, its families, the country as a whole—has been borrowing to sustain its consumption. Meanwhile, investment in fixed assets—the plants and equipment that help increase our wealth—has been declining.

What’s the impact of all this down the road? The growth rate in America’s standard of living will almost certainly slow, and there could even be a decline. The American economy can take a lot of abuse, but no economy is invincible, and our vulnerabilities are plain for all to see. As confidence in the American economy has plummeted, so has the value of the dollar—by 40 percent against the euro since 2001.

The disarray in our economic policies at home has parallels in our economic policies abroad. President Bush blamed the Chinese for our huge trade deficit, but an increase in the value of the yuan, which he has pushed, would simply make us buy more textiles and apparel from Bangladesh and Cambodia instead of China; our deficit would remain unchanged. The president claimed to believe in free trade but instituted measures aimed at protecting the American steel industry. The United States pushed hard for a series of bilateral trade agreements and bullied smaller countries into accepting all sorts of bitter conditions, such as extending patent protection on drugs that were desperately needed to fight aids. We pressed for open markets around the world but prevented China from buying Unocal, a small American oil company, most of whose assets lie outside the United States.

Not surprisingly, protests over U.S. trade practices erupted in places such as Thailand and Morocco. But America has refused to compromise—refused, for instance, to take any decisive action to do away with our huge agricultural subsidies, which distort international markets and hurt poor farmers in developing countries. This intransigence led to the collapse of talks designed to open up international markets. As in so many other areas, President Bush worked to undermine multilateralism—the notion that countries around the world need to cooperate—and to replace it with an America-dominated system. In the end, he failed to impose American dominance—but did succeed in weakening cooperation.

The administration’s basic contempt for global institutions was underscored in 2005 when it named Paul Wolfowitz, the former deputy secretary of defense and a chief architect of the Iraq war, as president of the World Bank. Widely distrusted from the outset, and soon caught up in personal controversy, Wolfowitz became an international embarrassment and was forced to resign his position after less than two years on the job.

Globalization means that America’s economy and the rest of the world have become increasingly interwoven. Consider those bad American mortgages. As families default, the owners of the mortgages find themselves holding worthless pieces of paper. The originators of these problem mortgages had already sold them to others, who packaged them, in a non-transparent way, with other assets, and passed them on once again to unidentified others. When the problems became apparent, global financial markets faced real tremors: it was discovered that billions in bad mortgages were hidden in portfolios in Europe, China, and Australia, and even in star American investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Bear Stearns. Indonesia and other developing countries—innocent bystanders, really—suffered as global risk premiums soared, and investors pulled money out of these emerging markets, looking for safer havens. It will take years to sort out this mess.

Meanwhile, we have become dependent on other nations for the financing of our own debt. Today, China alone holds more than $1 trillion in public and private American I.O.U.’s. Cumulative borrowing from abroad during the six years of the Bush administration amounts to some $5 trillion. Most likely these creditors will not call in their loans—if they ever did, there would be a global financial crisis. But there is something bizarre and troubling about the richest country in the world not being able to live even remotely within its means. Just as Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib have eroded America’s moral authority, so the Bush administration’s fiscal housekeeping has eroded our economic authority.

The Way Forward

Whoever moves into the White House in January 2009 will face an unenviable set of economic circumstances. Extricating the country from Iraq will be the bloodier task, but putting America’s economic house in order will be wrenching and take years.

The most immediate challenge will be simply to get the economy’s metabolism back into the normal range. That will mean moving from a savings rate of zero (or less) to a more typical savings rate of, say, 4 percent. While such an increase would be good for the long-term health of America’s economy, the short-term consequences would be painful. Money saved is money not spent. If people don’t spend money, the economic engine stalls. If households curtail their spending quickly—as they may be forced to do as a result of the meltdown in the mortgage market—this could mean a recession; if done in a more measured way, it would still mean a protracted slowdown. The problems of foreclosure and bankruptcy posed by excessive household debt are likely to get worse before they get better. And the federal government is in a bind: any quick restoration of fiscal sanity will only aggravate both problems.

And in any case there’s more to be done. What is required is in some ways simple to describe: it amounts to ceasing our current behavior and doing exactly the opposite. It means not spending money that we don’t have, increasing taxes on the rich, reducing corporate welfare, strengthening the safety net for the less well off, and making greater investment in education, technology, and infrastructure.

When it comes to taxes, we should be trying to shift the burden away from things we view as good, such as labor and savings, to things we view as bad, such as pollution. With respect to the safety net, we need to remember that the more the government does to help workers improve their skills and get affordable health care the more we free up American businesses to compete in the global economy. Finally, we’ll be a lot better off if we work with other countries to create fair and efficient global trade and financial systems. We’ll have a better chance of getting others to open up their markets if we ourselves act less hypocritically—that is, if we open our own markets to their goods and stop subsidizing American agriculture.

Some portion of the damage done by the Bush administration could be rectified quickly. A large portion will take decades to fix—and that’s assuming the political will to do so exists both in the White House and in Congress. Think of the interest we are paying, year after year, on the almost $4 trillion of increased debt burden—even at 5 percent, that’s an annual payment of $200 billion, two Iraq wars a year forever. Think of the taxes that future governments will have to levy to repay even a fraction of the debt we have accumulated. And think of the widening divide between rich and poor in America, a phenomenon that goes beyond economics and speaks to the very future of the American Dream.

In short, there’s a momentum here that will require a generation to reverse. Decades hence we should take stock, and revisit the conventional wisdom. Will Herbert Hoover still deserve his dubious mantle? I’m guessing that George W. Bush will have earned one more grim superlative.

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Oh, the Drama! McCain in the Theater of the Absurd

By Michael Grunwald

John McCain speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) September 24, 2008 in New York City.
John McCain at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) September 24, 2008 in New York City.
Spencer Platt / Getty

If you missed the news this week, you didn't miss all that much. The stock market threatened to crash, but didn't. John McCain threatened to skip the presidential debate unless members of Congress approved a huge financial bailout, but they didn't, so he didn't. The debate went on; the candidates stayed on message; the pundits all agreed that it wasn't a "game-changer." You did miss the largest bank failure in American history, not to mention a $25 billion bailout of the auto industry, but that's chump change these days, right? You might not have heard that investment banks are now officially extinct, but basically the economy is on the same precipice it was on last week.

What you did miss was an amazing week of political theater, starring the frenetic, operatic, borderline erratic McCain, the former fighter pilot who seems to have found his calling as a kamikaze politician. He might not win the election — another thing you missed this week was Barack Obama pulling ahead in the polls — but when it's over he's a shoo-in for a show on TNT. RuPaul doesn't know drama like McCain knows drama.

After spending most of last week walking back his observation that the fundamentals of the economy were sound, McCain suddenly cut short his debate prep on Wednesday to announce he was "suspending" his campaign to fly back to Washington to rescue the Wall Street bailout negotiations, although he didn't seem to suspend much except for an interview with an irate David Letterman, and he didn't fly back to Washington until he had finished a political meeting with the bepearled former Hillary Clinton supporter Lynn Forester de Rothschild and a bunch of network interviews and a speech to the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City on Thursday, which, as astute political observers noted, was the day after Wednesday. What's more, the Wall Street bailout negotiations seemed to be progressing pretty well without him; Democratic leaders who had trashed the Bush administration's initial $700 billion proposal had won concessions on transparency and taxpayer protections, and key senators from both parties were saying a deal was close. McCain and Obama had outlined similar goals for the package, and Obama had called McCain to discuss a joint statement Wednesday morning. Also, President Bush had made a prime-time speech calling for consensus, but we missed it, and we were here this week. Well, you probably would have missed it, too.

But then McCain made his surprise announcement that the financial crisis was more important than politics, which was why he had to drag the entire circus of presidential politics into the middle of the delicate negotiations. Which seemed to blow up the moment he arrived in town. Conservative Republicans in the House had their own ideas for a bailout, including a suspension of capital-gains taxes, which made no sense as a response to a Wall Street free-fall — a capital-gains tax holiday would only encourage a bigger sell-off — but hey, conservative Republicans in the House really hate capital-gains taxes. In any case, at the White House meeting McCain had ginned up, he mostly kept quiet, but apparently left the impression he agreed with the recalcitraint Republicans. Sarah Palin had told Katie Couric that failing to take action could create another Great Depression — alas, you missed a great interview, which you can catch up on here — but McCain had never committed to support the Administration's plan. When asked, he had claimed he hadn't read it, even though it was only a few pages long.

And so: no deal.

On Friday, though, McCain realized it probably wasn't in his interest to let Obama have the stage to himself, so he announced that he was going to debate after all, since the stalled negotiations were now on track, although in fact the on-track negotiations were now stalled, but whatever. By the time he left Washington — some Democrats suggested this was no coincidence — the negotiations seemed to un-stall. The bailout now appears to be back on track for next week, and at the debate, McCain suggested that he supports it. The wacky events of the week went unmentioned, and McCain made a strong case for himself as the candidate of adult leadership. Which, if you've been paying attention to his campaign, is probably true if your idea of an adult is Terrell Owens, although Terrell Owens is at least capable of running in a straight line.

There is, of course, a serious point to all this mishigas. The last eight years may have been a geopolitical and economic disaster, but one thing they have not lacked is drama. They've been eight exhausting years, and when Obama talks about change, he's implicitly talking about giving Americans a break, a timeout from grand history. It's like those T-shirts during the primary: End the Drama — Vote Obama. McCain has tried to make a similar case in a different way, arguing that he's steady and experienced while Obama is risky and dangerous. That case can get lost in his roller-coaster campaign.

So now you're up to speed. Oh, one more thing: North Korea is restarting its nuclear program. These days, history doesn't seem to take many breaks.

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