McCain's Curve Ball

I thought both candidates did fine tonight -- except for how John McCain dropped a massive new policy proposal into the campaign (to empower Treasury to buy and renegoatiate failing mortgages) that will force his campaign to talk about the economic crisis for the coming days, and specifically to explain what the hell he's thinking with this wildly impulsive approach.

McCain blunted its impact in the debate, by failing to mention -- any of the several separate times he brought it up -- that this was an entirely new proposal for him. To most viewers, I suspect that they didn't know it was knew, didn't really understand its value, and quickly forgot about it. This also allowed Obama, who clearly was blindsided by it, to simply ignore it rather than get forced into responding to it on the fly (and possibly validating it before his staff has a chance to pick it apart). In addition, the media was so blindsided by it, that from what I can tell they're ignoring it in the discussion afterward -- so he's getting no 'game-changing' buzz, at least initially, for having dropped what he presumably wants to be seen as a bold, new proposal to the crisis.

Of course, the plan is not entirely new -- versions of it were discussed during the bailout debate, and were rejected, mostly because Secretary Paulsen said that it would be impractical, if not impossible, to create the necessary vast bureaucracy in the short time necessary to have any impact.

According to a short release on the plan, released by the McCain campaign during the debate tonight, the direct costs of the plan would be $300 billion -- which McCain wants to divert directly from the just-passed $700 billion bailout plan. The campaign argues that, with this plan in effect (they're calling it the "McCain Resurgence Plan"), much of the Wall Street bailout would prove unnecessary.

So, what we have here is that John McCain rushed back to Washington to help negotiate a bailout bill, voted for it, and then announced plans to completely undermine it with another, totally different plan.

I'll leave it to others to assess the plan in greater detail, but in general this sort of plan is much-loathed by conservatives, and many people consider it by nature pretty fundamentally unfair. (For example, it rewards those who are failing to pay their mortgage, but not those in exactly the same circumstances who do pay -- indeed, for many homeowners whose homes have dropped significantly in value, this would create an incentive to stop paying the mortgage.) Also, as noted, the Treasury Secretary has said it won't work.


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