Why McCain Goes Easy on Fannie and the CRA

Conservatives waiting for his big attack will be disappointed.

By SHARE

Here is the big question of the moment that many GOPers are asking: Why is John McCain not tearing into Barack Obama and the Dems on the huge role of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the Community Reinvestment Act in the financial crisis on Wall Street? In fact, the biggest criticism by conservatives of Sarah Palin's debate performance last night was that she had the opportunity to talk about Fannie/Freddie and the CRA but instead criticized the role of "predatory lenders."

Here is what Team McCain is telling me: Expect McCain to make the case on television, but don't look for him to turn to Obama in the next debate, point his finger, and say something like this (courtesy of the Ace of Spades HQ blog):

I stayed away from making these partisan attacks, even though you lied ridiculously about me and your own attempts at 'reform.' I held back, because partisan attacks—even truthful ones—would harm our country and reduce the chances of getting a vital bill passed. Well, the bill is now passed. I put country first. You didn't, and you lied on top of that. And now— only now that this crisis has been dealt with, to the extent we can—I'm going to give you a bit of straight-talk about Fannie, Freddie, my attempts to reform it, and your attempts to block reform on behalf of your big donors and friends in ACORN.

Nope, that is not going to happen Why not? 1) It is a complicated argument, and McCain is not good at making complicated arguments, not even about earmarks. (Note, additionally, his lack of defense of the war in Iraq during his debate with Obama. Amazing.)

2) There is a racial component to criticism of the Community Reinvestment Act that can make it sound like you are scapegoating minorities for Wall Street's problems.

3) The campaign believes McCain's time is better spent talking about taxes and energy and healthcare. Really.

There is a newish TV ad about Fannie and Freddie. You tell me if it makes the point conservatives desperately want McCain to make. I don't think it explicitly or aggressively connects the dots the way activists crave. Here is the transcript:

ANNCR: John McCain fought to rein in Fannie and Freddie.

The Post says: McCain "pushed for stronger regulation"..."while Mr. Obama was notably silent."

But, Democrats blocked the reforms.

Loans soared.

Then, the bubble burst.

And, taxpayers are on the hook for billions.

Bill Clinton knows who is responsible.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: "I think the responsibility that the Democrats have may rest more in resisting any efforts by Republicans in the Congress or by me when I was President to put some standards and tighten up a little on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

ANNCR: You're right, Mr. President. It didn't have to happen.

JOHN McCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

My bottom line: The McCain campaign is underestimating how absolutely furious conservatives are that free markets, and by extension Reaganomics and the last 25 years of American economic policy, are getting the blame for the housing and credit crisis. A real morale killer, they tell me. Over and over. Every day.

TAGS:
McCain, John
Fannie Mae
Freddie Mac

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