John McCain drastically mis-told a story about Dwight Eisenhower during last night’s debate. Referring to the famous note Ike wrote as the D-Day invasion was starting in which he took responsibility for failure if it did not succeed, McCain said that Ike had offered to resign if it failed. Wrong. Dead wrong. Yes, Ike took responsibility. But no, he did not offer to resign. Here is the text of the note: “Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
McCain used his story about Ike’s (nonexistent) offer to resign to defend his asinine call last week for SEC Chairman Chris Cox to be fired. His point was that whomever is in charge of a terrible failure should be man enough to take the fall for it. It is a good point — but a point badly applied. Chris Cox was no more “in charge” of the credit markets (especially Fannie and Feddie) than Ike was in charge of, say, the Iwo Jima landing (if Iwo Jima had gone badly instead of well). But Ike WAS in charge, directly in charge, and clearly the man ultimately responsible for, the D-Day landing in France. Yet even Ike, in his admirable note taking the blame for a potential failure that (thank goodness) did not happen, did not go so far as to resign or offer to do so. How, then, should Cox, whose oversight powers for the credit markets are purely voluntary (voluntary not by him but by the institutions to be overseen) and circumscribed, and whose oversight on Fannie and Freddie was nil, be fired? The parallel would not even have worked even if Ike HAD offered to resign. But the fact that Ike did NOT make such an offer actuallya rgues against McCain’s intended point — and shows McCain to have been reckless in desperately searching for a scapegoat.