John McCain, Scourge of Wall Street

Aside from dim Bush-style clichés ("the fundamentals of our economy are strong") and vaguely populist scapegoating (“Wall Street is the villain”), exactly what does John McCain have to offer Americans frightened by the current financial bloodbath and the certainty of recession?

Suddenly he and Sarah Palin are promising to expand their crusade for “reform” from Capitol Hill to the capitalists. "I promise you we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street," said McCain.

"Washington has been asleep at the switch, and ineffective," declared his running mate this morning, in her usual earnest manner. "John McCain and I are going to put an end to the mismanagement and abuses in Washington and on Wall Street. It must be the market that the American people and investors everywhere can trust. This is going to be one of the highest priorities of our administration."

That must sound reassuringly firm to everyone willing to overlook the fact that McCain has been in Washington for the past two or three decades while the regulatory regime was gutted and finance capital ran wild. He was snoring at the switch, having given his proxy to Professor Phil Gramm, former Republican senator from Texas and current lobbyist and vice president at UBS, whose responsibility for the subprime crisis is equaled only by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and perhaps former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers.

McCain cannot so easily escape the taint of his close association with Gramm, who until last month co-chaired his campaign and whose economic extremism has long influenced the Arizona senator. (Indeed, at the height of Gramm’s malign career in the Senate, McCain co-chaired his awful presidential campaign.) For years now, McCain has been telling conservatives that Gramm is his main economic adviser.

So will someone please ask the maverick when he changed his mind about the benefits of regulation? And whether Gramm is still on his short list for treasury secretary in a McCain administration? John McCain, Scourge of Wall Street