Upon a night’s reflection about John McCain’s attack yesterday on Chris Cox, ESPECIALLY on his explanation for it, I have concluded the following. McCain’s outburst was flagrantly ignorant, disgustingly demagogic, and pathetically panicky. Just when he had a chance to prove his mettle as someone who could be level-headed in a crisis, he instead showed himself to be a hothead and a bully who goes off half-cocked while firing blanks.
On substance, I noted yesterday that McCain criticized Cox for NOT reining in naked short selling when in fact Cox has been so far out front in reining in naked shorts that he has been getting criticism for it from the other side — including from McCain’s onetime virtual amenuensis, Michael Lewis. Lewis is the guy who ran around the country in 1996 following McCain for The New Republic, writing again and again that McCain, not Dole or Gramm, should be president. (Lewis’s column is misinformed, too, because he makes no distincition between regular shorts and naked shorts — but that’s beside the point.)
McCain complained that there is a lack of “transparency” on Wall Street. The truth is that Chris Cox has done more to make corporate books transparent than anybody in the history of mankind. McCain didn’t just criticize Cox for bad decisions, but for the far more serious offense of “betray[ing] the public trust.” That’s the kind of charge you level at somebody for malfeasance, for corruption, not for policy choices. Its scurrilous for McCain to say that, and it’s despicable. Finally, as NRO’s Jim Geraghty wrote yesterday, the last thing you want to do in a crisis — unless there actually is either corruption or gross dereliction of duty — is to change horses right in the middle of the crisis, with nobody ready to step into the job.
Neither McCain nor his advisor Douglas Holtz-Eakin could offer any specifics for what Cox should have done but failed to do — OTHER than the factually incorrect statement about naked shorts. They quite literally do not know what they are talking about — not in terms of having misguided opinions, but quite literally in terms of not having a clue about the facts.
McCain has demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt the truth of his statement some months ago that he (paraphrasing from memory here) “doesn’t know much about economics” and that he needs “help” on the subject. Well, exactly.