John McCain's big speech on housing last week was portrayed by many as an almost libertarian take on the issue, that McCain was completely opposed to helping folks struggling with their mortgages. Sort of a "McCain to Homeowners: Drop Dead" kind of thing.
But that's not how I heard it. In fact, I heard McCain as saying just the opposite, that he would back targeted assistance. Either most of the media got it wrong or I got it wrong. So when I chatted with McCain economic adviser and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina this morning, I asked her—among many other things—who got the story right. This is Fiorina's response:
You definitely got it right, and I think it got characterized that way by many in the media because they played one sound bite, and the Democrats mischaracterized his position purposefully to try and draw a contrast. Now the contrasts are very large between John McCain's position and the Democrats' position, but he does believe there is a role for government. In fact, in that speech he said three things: He said the role of government is to help the truly needy; the role of government is to make sure that appropriate reforms are enacted so this doesn't happen again; the role of government, however, is not to bail out bad actors and speculators. The role of government is to distinguish between those who are in trouble through no fault of their own and guys who just played the market and lost. That's what he said.