Monday, September 29, 2008

Risky Business

From an AP article in the Washington Times:
Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said Sunday his Republican rival deserves no credit for helping to forge a tentative agreement on the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.

Instead, Obama said he deserves credit for making sure the proposal includes safeguards for taxpayers. Obama said he is inclined to support the bailout because it includes increased oversight, relief for homeowners facing foreclosure and limits on executive compensation for chief executives of firms that receive government help.
Ever buy anything fun that was a little above your pay grade? Then find yourself down the road thinking, "Well, I'm glad I got it, but maybe it wasn't such a good idea in retrospect." Even better: ever had something like the roof or furnace go out an have to shell out a couple of grand you didn't plan for to pay for it, 'cause it was necessary, but resent the hell out of it for the weeks or months it took to either pay it off (if on credit) or forego minor stuff you need because you had no money left? Yep, that's the feeling.

My Magic 8-ball says we're all feeling that way about the bailout, and it's only going to get worse in the future when we hear about how high the deficit is, or how we don't have any money for (insert really good idea here). We're going to blame the bailout, whether or not the bailout is really at fault. And we're going to blame the politicians that tied themselves to it. Any short-term political street cred a candidate gets for being the one who saves the day with this bailout could morph into a huge liability in the future.

That's why I believed McCain had a good thing going: by flying in to save the day, yet simultaneously rejecting the alleged compromise, he managed to pull off looking like he was working while actually not doing any work, and being proactive on a solution, while not actually supporting the solution. Nicely done. I predicted it wouldn't be supportable in the end, if he tried juggling that one for long he'd drop a ball or two, so the best move would be to reluctantly cave on the solution, setting that ball down. Rationale: he's old and frankly doesn't care what the long-term effects are on his political future. He just needs to get the presidential spot, then retire after his term.
(Side Note: Instead, he decided to drop the "looking like he was working" ball by retreating to his headquarters and phoning it in, after saying to ABC that this one couldn't be phoned in. Go figure. *shrug* No one listens to me, anyway.)
However, he does appear to be trying to maintain that distance from the actual package. He's still pretty much saying, "I'll let you know whether I support it or not once I bother to read it." In fact, Gingrich is apparently advising him not to sign on at all. Interesting advice. It might work, if there are no additional issues with the market. Then the bailout hype dies down and you look like the smart guy that knew it was all smoke and mirrors. Big, big gamble, though. Last week, Chinese banks were apparently told to stop lending to US institutions. I'm not totally prepped on how this whole system works yet, but even I know that's a bad, bad thing. If McCain became known as the fly in the ointment and the market took a huge tumble because of a delay, say buh-bye to the remaining chances of election.

Now Obama is tying this tiger to his tail by putting out the word that McCain wasn't the one who worked out the deal, he was. Oh, he tries to do the same juggling act by stating that, well, he was responsible for the protections (implication: not the bad part, the good part). But that doesn't work, because what people will remember are the headlines, not details in paragraph 2 or 3. A risky move, because Obama does have a political future (presumably) that could get tanked by this. The only way he can pull it off without placing that in jeopardy is to hammer home the idea that he inherited this baby from the Bush administration, and did his best to raise it. Good luck with that.

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