McCain's Questioner Responds

You'll no doubt recall this exchange during Tuesday night's debate.

Oliver Clark: Well, Senators, through this economic crisis, most of the people that I know have had a difficult time. And through this bailout package, I was wondering what it is that's going to actually help those people out.

John McCain: Well, thank you, Oliver, and that's an excellent question, because as you just described it, bailout, when I believe that it's rescue, because -- because of the greed and excess in Washington and Wall Street, Main Street was paying a very heavy price, and we know that.

I left my campaign and suspended it to go back to Washington to make sure that there were additional protections for the taxpayer in the form of good oversight, in the form of taxpayers being the first to be paid back when our economy recovers -- and it will recover -- and a number of other measures.

But you know, one of the real catalysts, really the match that lit this fire was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I'll bet you, you may never even have heard of them before this crisis. [...]

(Emphasis mine.)

This response marked John McCain's first of several forays into his now patented tone of condescension during the debate (and actually, less remarked is that McCain later called Oliver by the wrong name.) In fact, the rudeness contained within this one line was so memorable that it inspired a wave of questions for Oliver Clark, to which he has now responded on his Facebook page. First Read has it:

How did I feel about Sen. McCain stating "You probably never heard of Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac before this."

Well Senator, I actually did. I like to think of myself as a fairly intelligent person. I have a bachelor degree in Political Science from Tennessee State, so I try to keep myself up to date with current affairs. I have a Master degree in Legal Studies from Southern Illinois University, a few years in law school, and I am currently pursuing a Master in Public Administration from the University of Memphis. In defense of the Senator from Arizona I would say he is an older guy, and may have made an underestimation of my age. Honest mistake. However, it could be because I am a young African-American male. Whatever the case may be it was somewhat condescending regardless of my age to make an assumption regarding whether I was knowledgeable about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Very charitable, Oliver.

But the tone with which McCain responded to Clark was only part of the problem with McCain's response and, as Joe Klein rightly points out, was simply a microcosm of McCain's larger problem at these debates and why Obama is smoking him in every one.

The difference between them was made clear in the second question of the debate -- a fellow named Oliver Clark wanted to know how the Wall Street bailout would help his friends who were in trouble. McCain's answer was all over the place and obscure in a classic Washington way; he detoured into blaming Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac and pointing his finger at Obama and "his cronies" for supporting those two incomprehensible institutions. Obama, by contrast, brought the bailout home in simple language: "Well, Oliver, first, let me tell you what's in the rescue package for you. Right now, the credit markets are frozen up, and what that means, as a practical matter, is that small businesses and some large businesses just can't get loans. If they can't get a loan, that means that they can't make payroll. If they can't make payroll, then they may end up having to shut their doors and lay people off."

I don't think McCain has answered a single question with that sort of clarity in these debates. He answers with oblique gestures -- raising totems like General Petraeus and Senator Joe Lieberman as proof of his bona fides -- or attacks on targets (like "liberalism") whose relevance has evaporated during the past eight years. Even when it comes to national security, his alleged area of expertise, McCain has difficulty explaining himself. His waffling about whether to cross the border into Pakistan for targeted strikes against al-Qaeda leaders was both foolish and incomprehensible: if the Pakistanis are our allies, as he insisted, why are they protecting the terrorists? Obama, by contrast, answered with simple declarative sentences: "We will kill bin Laden. We will crush al-Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national-security priority."

And think, McCain wanted 12 of these throughout the year. Hell, maybe Obama should have taken him up on it.

Tags: Barack Obama, John McCain, oliver clark (all tags)



Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

I've been noticing that McCain responds to questions in a manner designed to either elevate himself or demean Obama, while Obama simply answers the question asked. Likewise Palin responded to her debate questions in a manner designed to cheerlead for McCain while Biden focused on providing thoughtful answers to serious questions. It appears that what we're seeing here is the difference between genuine and manufactured.

by phoenixdreamz 2008-10-09 03:28PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

Next time NMcCain uses one of his idiotic fearmongering statements , or demeans Obama about the so called success of his stupid surge, then Obama should just say "oh please.. we are losing trillions here, in part because of your stupid war, and you have the audacity to lecture me on wisdom sand experience? I will trade your surge for a prosperous economy"

by Pravin 2008-10-09 04:11PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

To be fair, Obama ducked a lot of answers, too, they both did (when McCain wasn't taking out his ass about buying mortgages, anyway...).  This was the best example of a question where there was one clear non-answer and one clear answer.

by NJIndependent 2008-10-09 03:29PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

Look, there is  blame to go around. Democrats did pander to low income families. We had eight years of Clintons in the 90s and what did he do to improve the basic fiscal education of many Americans? We hear all these fantastic proposals from DEmocrats? But we had a chance to implement them in the 90s and we did NOTHING. There are some hardworking lower income Americans who are victims of some fast talking agents or mortgage fraud of scamsters tinkering with neighborhood values. But there were a lot who just exhibited plain ignorance. How tough is it to understand what an ARM is? Democrats just pandered to all of them portraying everyone of them as victims.

Having said that, it is disgusting how Republicans will always target African American folk (let's face it, when they say lower income housing, we know what the code word is). They exhibited outrage at looters in Katrina when rich white guys were looting millions in Katrina contracts that went unfulfilled.

Now the Republicans act like lower income housing standards are the reason we are in this mess. True, s2ome of the loans were unwarranted. But come on. The system did not collapse because of some loans going to houses on the lower end of the housing market. There is simply not enough dollar value in those loans to cause this mess. From what I can see the problem is caused more by people of all income levels. And the people at the higher income levels just exhibited pure greed compared to the lower income level families who merely wanted a decent house to live in. Hell, some of the guilty exist in your average upper middle class segment where people got too greedy and bought second homes to sell for a quick buck. You had people who could afford only a $300K  house buy a $600K house. You had families buy expensive cars by refinancing their house based on speculative higher assessments.

This mess is owned by everyone. We keep voting incumbents in both parties because they are "good enough". How about voting for reps who do not pander to every one of our instincts?

Democrats are guilty of not doing enough. The rot existed even in the Clinton years. It just got much worse under Bush.

by Pravin 2008-10-09 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

Wonderful repetition of republican talking points.  Spot on....that was snark, right?

by lojasmo 2008-10-09 03:55PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

Did you even read my comment? Only an idiot would think I was blaming Democrats more than the Republicans.

by Pravin 2008-10-09 04:08PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

Absurdly strong dollar.  Low energy costs.  Finance as the base of our economy.  Didn't happen overnight.  Roost, chickens.

by the mollusk 2008-10-09 09:13PM | 0 recs
Clinton talked about solutions

Anyone who was around and paying attention during the Clinton years knows the man talked endlessly about government and public policy.

He talked so much to the public about solving the country's problems, the punditry and news media ridiculed him, preferring to talk about his sex life instead.

Sorry but that's one accusation against Bill Clinton that doesn't hold water.  He didn't pander to anyone.

by Betsy McCall 2008-10-10 04:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Clinton talked about solutions

Sloppy writing on my part giving the conflation of Clinton's policies with Democratic politicians' pandering. But the thing is we did not accomplish much on his watch. CEO salaries were out of whack even during those years. The warning signs were back then about a national rot when it came to greed.

by Pravin 2008-10-10 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

I read it.  You were blaming equally, when that is not close to being the case.  What is more, you activated and validated the "poor people buying houses they couldn't afford" frame...cleverly triangulating the frame in the same paragraph.  Very sophisticated chicanery, but chicanery all the same, in my opinion.

by lojasmo 2008-10-09 05:22PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

No you obviously cannot read. I clearly said that republicans were trying to make it like poor people were one of the main reasons when it wasn't the case. It doesn't mean you go to the other extreme and act like every person on the lower end of the economic scale was blameless. I saw 60 minutes interview some families and it was obvious they were too dumb to understand how an ARM worked. That is an indictment of our education system.

The majority of that paragraph clearly said there wasn't enough loans given to undeserving poor people to play a major role in the collapse. I blamed a lot of it on people in the upper level incomes. I even gave some examples lest you were too dumb to understand.

But it doesn't mean you go to the other extreme and deny everything and act like Democrats were totally blameless in this mess. That will only undermine our credibility when we attack Republicans and many Americans in the upper income levels who got too greedy and  behaved very irresponsibly when it came to financial issues. I would rather acknowledge some of the smidgens of truth they say and downplay it by putting them in the proper context. Admitting that some people in income levels got loans they had no business getting does not mean we are blaming them for this financial mess. Those abuses of the system are mere drops in the bucket.

by Pravin 2008-10-09 09:14PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's

I canvassed yesterday afternoon - my list was of undecided voters and I asked if they had decided yet. One man said he had decided the night before after the debate. He said McCain "talked in circles" and never really answered a question. He thought Obama answered questions so he was voting for him. That was gratifying.  

Most people on my list had decided for Obama but 2 were now for McCain. Most weren't home (as is pretty normal)

by veggiemuffin 2008-10-09 06:12PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds

Since when does Obama get his talking points from CNN?  "Small businesses won't be able to make payroll."  Okay, so help small businesses with government-backed low-interest loans.  Change.  Hope.  What else do we have at this point?

by the mollusk 2008-10-09 09:09PM | 0 recs
Re: McCain's Questioner Responds
Sorry but Pravin is largely correct.  Bill Clinton did not improve the plight of average Americans very much.  At the end of his terms we still no universal social services, income and wealth disparities were becoming huge,  big business was basically unrestrained in it's power over the country, and environmental, social, and other problems were still festering.  Basically Clinton gets away with it because anybody looks good compared to Bush.  That, and women, gays, and minorities are often quite uncritical towards him.
If you want to read a good article online, go to the Dissent weblog and take a look at the piece by Timothy A. Canova, entitled "The Legacy Of The Clinton Bubble."  It should raise a few eyebrows.
by demjim 2008-10-10 07:06AM | 0 recs


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