Bailout Fail, Redux

September 29, 2008

So that happened. From a purely economic standpoint, I remain unqualified to have much of an opinion on what the failure of the bailout bill means. I’m inclined to agree with the consensus that, while deeply flawed, the bill was a lot less terrible than nothing, that the House Republicans’ alternative would have been worthless, and that the list of things Democrats want added contains a mixture of sensible and pernicious measures.

In terms of presidential politics, everyone seems to think this will be very bad for McCain, though his campaign is of course working hard to spin it in his favor. Even at the Corner, the saner and more sincere folks are blaming House Republicans, which can hardly be a good thing for their party’s chances in November.

I don’t disagree that this will likely be bad for McCain: it probably will be. But I recently argued that the only explanation for the McCain Gambit that is consistent with treating his campaign as a more or less rational actor is that he went to DC to kill the bailout deal, while making sure to look as if he were doing his best to rescue it, in the hopes of spinning the failure as the result of Democratic partisanship. If that was right, then things went perfectly for him; the bailout failed, and no one thinks that he wanted it to.

He will probably lose the spin war on the issue, but his case isn’t really that hard a sell. The Democrats do have a majority in the House, after all, and the explanation that politicians need bi-partisan cover to hand $700 billion to Wall Street – while perfectly true – is a little abstract for public consumption. The idea that McCain’s campaign suspension proves he did everything he could while Obama played politics is ludicrous, but has some superficial appeal.

Regardless of whether or not this was his strategy, spinning it this way is absolutely vital for McCain, and under slightly different circumstances, I would have said he had a decent chance of pulling this off. His rocky relationship with the media of late will hurt him, though, and with a major opportunity for each side to press its case coming up on Thursday, is Sarah Palin the woman you want as your spokeswoman? No, no she is not.

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2 Responses to “Bailout Fail, Redux”


  1. […] If that was right, then things went perfectly for him; the bailout failed , and no one thinks that he wanted it to. He will probably lose the spin war on the issue, but his case isn’t really that hard a sell. …[Continue Reading] […]


  2. […] From a purely economic standpoint, I remain unqualified to have much of an opinion on what the failure of the bailout bill means. I’m inclined to agree with the consensus that, while deeply flawed, the bill was a lot less terrible than …[Continue Reading] […]


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