The Republicans’ Gift To Obama

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - October 08, 2008

John McCain and President Bush
John McCain and President Bush with Congressional leaders at the recent White House economic summit

At last spring’s Hawaii Democratic Convention, Congressman Neil Abercrombie - the local Dems’acknowledged oratorical stemwinder supreme - predicted Barack Obama’s presidential victory in the fall.

Why the Congressman’s confidence? George W. Bush.

“Bush,” shouted Abercrombie through his trademark toothy grin, “is the gift that keeps on giving” to Democrats across the land.

In the past two weeks, Bush’s gift to the Democrats - and specifically to Barack Obama - has been the culmination of 30 years of Republican deregulatory excess: a credit and Wall Street crisis of epic proportions.

It left Bush with a 22 percent approval rating from the American people - equal to Harry Truman’s in the midst of a stagnant Korean War and an even more stagnant economy. Bush’s Secretary of Treasury, Henry Paulson, despite his purported brilliance, couldn’t persuade a sufficient number of Republicans or Democrats in the House to sign on to the $720 billion bail-out of Wall Street, the street of excessive (nay, vulgar) executive salaries and investment in irrational (not to mention ridiculous) sub-prime mortgages.

It left John McCain, the man who would be the Republican successor to Bush, looking foolish: threatening to cancel the first presidential debate so that he could bring Congress together, then jetting off to Mississippi to debate, then watching - open-mouthed - with the rest of the country as the House rejected Bush, Paulson, McCain, Obama and anyone else who suggested the struggling Main Streets of America should rescue Wall Street.

As I write, a month and a couple of days before the General Election on Nov. 4, polls show Obama with nine-point leads in national polls and advantages in Virginia, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina, states that two weeks ago leaned increasingly toward McCain.

Obama should send both Bush and McCain fruitcakes accompanied by cards of thanks. Obama owes them, because he certainly didn’t do it on his own. His first debate performance was lackluster, at best - sufficient only in that he looked cool, committed no gaffes and could claim a victorious draw. No more.

But Bush and McCain have both been part of the attack on the Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society that has been going on for more than quarter century. Ronald Reagan famously declared upon taking office in 1981, “Government is not the solution to our problems. Government is the problem.”

Given the 2008 results of deregulation on the mortgage market and in investment banking, those words smack of infamy today. Conservatives in 1981 may have been correct in arguing that American business suffered under too much regulation; but their ideologically deep-rooted belief in no regulation at all has proven murderously destructive to banks, homeowners, retirees and job-seekers.

What firewall does Main Street American enjoy? None in the market, but the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation for their savings (up to $100,000), thanks to that much hated presidential regulator Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Private enterprise and the self-interest upon which it is based can drive an economy. Unregulated greed can destroy it. And we’ve come perilously close to destruction these past few weeks. Time will tell how close.

Obama owes a particularly fond note of thanks to McCain for his choice of a vice presidential nominee. I write before the vice presidential debate, in which Sarah Palin may hold her own.

It doesn’t matter.

In the weeks since McCain’s surprise choice of the little-known Palin, she’s proven herself singularly unprepared to become President of the United States. The Alaska governor is poorly educated, unread, inexperienced, shallow, and on occasion downright ditzy.

McCain advisors have spent hours, days and weeks now prepping her. Gentle interviewers like ABC’s Charles Gibson and CBS’s Katie Couric have tried to make her look acceptable. Republican partisans have stretched their spinning skills in their efforts to claim her executive experience as the 21-month governor of Alaska and as mayor of tiny Wasilla qualify her for the presidency. And don’t forget her PTA experience.

None of it has worked. The best reporting on Palin has been done on Saturday Night Live, using her own words and Tina Fey. It is the stuff of laughter, and not the gentle kind. It’s embarrassed laughter. Shake your head laughter.

It seems Christmas may have arrived in late September for Barack Obama, with George W. Bush and John McCain playing a two-headed Santa.

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