Living in Arizona, it's far too easy to be embarrassed by the state's elected officials, like Trent Franks, the AZ rep who declared last week that abortion is harder on African-Americans than slavery was. But because of their national stage, it's John & Jon, our two senators, who most frequently draw public attention to their own idiocy.
This week, it's McCain again. Now, I was paying closer attention to current events than some people, in the fall and winter of 2008/2009, because I was writing a current-events comic about Barack Obama's life, campaign, transition and first hundred days in office. That required studying the day's news in depth, every day.
But in my memory, there's no confusion about the purpose of the TARP bailout. It was money intended to go to financial institutions, i.e. banks, to help them swallow the loss of the "troubled assets," i.e. foreclosed houses that were suddenly worse far less than their paper value--meant to keep the big banks from going under so the entire economic system that depends on them wouldn't collapse.
John McCain remembers it a different way. On Meet the Press Sunday, he said, "We were all misled. We were all misled. I mean, he said that they were going after the toxic assets. The toxic asset-- for-- is-- were with the housing market. He testified-- that. I mean, we were all misled. So, what did he do then? They started pumpin' money into the financial institutions."
Now, he was busy running a failing political campaign and trying to keep Sarah Palin from shooting her own feet off. But still...if I understood where the TARP money was going, shouldn't a senator who voted for the bill have understood where it was going?
Of course he should have. And of course he did. On September 22, 2008, he said, "We're going to take over these bad loans. And we're going to have the taxpayer help you out. But when the time comes and the economy recovers, then anything that's gained back is going to go to the taxpayers first." The next day he added, "No Wall Street executives should profit from taxpayer dollars ... The senior leaders of any firm that is bailed out should not be making more than the highest paid government official." He knew the money wasn't going straight to the people with houses under water, but to the financial institutions that were suffering under the weight of all that bad paper. It's just that now he's trying to play to the anti-Wall Street sentiment in the country by pretending he didn't.
Sadly, it's not that different from how he's now pretending that he didn't claim he would support repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell if the nation's top military brass called for a repeal, or pretending that President Bush asked him to suspend his campaign and come to Washington, or pretending that Obama also suspended his campaign. The trouble for McCain is that these things didn't happen that long ago, and even if people don't remember, they have access to search engines and web archives.
There's another word for that kind of pretending, and since it's unlikely that McCain is really intellectually feeble enough to have actually forgotten the facts, it's the word that more honestly applies: McCain is lying for purposes of political expediency. What is it I keep hearing on his radio ads? "Character matters?" Something like that, anyway. I can't bring myself to intentionally listen to one online to find out, because, like "Country First," it's an empty slogan.