I Had a Secret Meeting in the Basement of My Brain

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The Politico's David Rogers reports from yesterday's Congress-White House-presidential candidates circus.

Both McCain and his Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama, would leave the White House without comment, and the meeting was described as among the wildest in memory. A beleaguered President Bush had to struggle to maintain order and reassert himself. And when Democrats left to caucus in the Roosevelt Room, Paulson pursued them, begging that they not "blow up" the legislation.

The former Goldman Sachs CEO even went down on one knee as if genuflecting, to which Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.) is said to have joked, "I didn't know you were Catholic."

It was McCain who had urged Bush to call the White House meeting but Democrats made sure Obama had a prominent part. And much as they complained later of being blindsided, the whole event turned out to be something of an ambush on their part—aimed at McCain and House Republicans.

"Speaking professionally," said one Republican aide, "They did a very good job."

When Bush yielded early to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) to speak, they yielded to Obama to speak for the assembled Democrats. And it was Obama who raised the subject of the conservative alternative and pressed Paulson on what he thought of the idea.

House Republicans felt trapped—squeezed by Treasury, House Democrats and a bipartisan coalition in the Senate. And while McCain spoke surprisingly little after asking for the meeting, he conceded that it appeared there were not the votes for the core Paulson plan without major changes.

Leave aside the obvious Great Man politics of McCain's stunt and it's not clear how his presence is distorting the negotiations. Were Republicans emboldened to oppose the deal and present alternatives when McCain gave them cover? Democrats can pass a bill without them, after all, it's just that they want the bipartisan cover. Obama seems to want a deal, any deal, angering liberal Democrats by opposing the bankruptcy protections they want to add in.

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NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Matt Welch on John McCain's Latest "Great Man" Stunt

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  1. Giving the executive branch the power to buy any security it wants without review is essentially the license to destroy our country. We don’t need to subsidize Paulson’s friends or bilionaire warren Buffet.

    I urge everyone to call and say they live in Taunton: zip code 02780 or 02783 get a address too.

    Barney Frank is one of the most important ones..tell him we are independents organize to target him specifically in the next election if he approve the fleecing of the taxpayers.

    Franks office -202-225-5931
    or 508-822-4796

  2. And while McCain spoke surprisingly little after asking for the meeting, he conceded that it appeared there were not the votes for the core Paulson plan without major changes.

    He thought he was showing up for the ribbon cutting, not the bricklaying.

    And much as they complained later of being blindsided, the whole event turned out to be something of an ambush on their part-aimed at McCain and House Republicans.

    “Speaking professionally,” said one Republican aide, “They did a very good job.”

    I have a great deal of difficulty believing this.

  3. Gabe,

    Independent oversight is one of the planks Frank and the Democrats have already negotiated into the deal. Small mercies, eh?

  4. So, the Democrates can pass this bailout without Republican support. That means the Dem’s are either lying about their end of the economy predictions or they are willfully flirting with economic disaster to avoid any future responsiblity for the side effects of the bailout.

  5. never thought Id utter these words, but my hero of the moment is Senator Richard Shelby.

  6. Although I think McCain’s stunt was absurd, I would cut him a little slack on how much he talked in the White House meeting.

    After all, the GOP had the actual President there, so a presidential nominee taking a leading role would have been a protocol no-no.

    Of course, that only renders the original stunt even more absurd, but what can you do?

  7. …or it means they think there’s still time on the clock, jtuf.

  8. This is a great Libertarian economic blog, BTW. Please excuse the threadjack, but this is an economic crises we’re talkin bout here. The old rules dont apply anymore.

    http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/

  9. So, the Democrates can pass this bailout without Republican support. That means the Dem’s are either lying about their end of the economy predictions or they are willfully flirting with economic disaster to avoid any future responsiblity for the side effects of the bailout.

    Strictly speaking, the ones making predictions of economic disaster and asking for this plan in the first place are a GOP President and a GOP Treasury Secretary.

    Maybe the Dems are saying, “We will only take your predictions seriously and vote for this plan if you are able to convince the members of your own party that they are true.”

  10. Wow, doesn’t McCain look like an ass now.

    Suspending his campaign to broker a Great Compromise and then walking away whimpering without gitin’ r’ done? -14 points for style.

  11. Republicans have a chance to pickup seats in Congress with this issue if the polls stating tax payers dislike of the bailout is accurate.

    A plan that would not use tax payer dollars could be a republian victory. It also shows that they are not in lock step with the Bush admin.

  12. Maybe the Dems are saying, “We will only take your predictions seriously and vote for this plan if you are able to convince the members of your own party that they are true.”

    Maybe the Dems are actually thinking “this is a serious shit sandwich that is going to explode in our faces eventually, so we want bipartisan support so we don’t take sole blame”.

  13. Maybe libertarians should give credit where credit is due. By inserting himself into the process, McCain managed to derail the socialist deal that Bush, Paulson, Pelosi and Obama thought was a fait acompli, and would have pushed through yesterday. Maybe he functioned only as a monkey wrench but, for the time being, he’s kept the House Republican alternative position alive. Of course he’s not a libertarian, but he may have enabled a better solution to emerge.

  14. If McCrazy, even inadvertently, can fuck this whole thing up, he will have my eternal gratitude. Just not my vote.

  15. …or it means they think there’s still time on the clock, jtuf.

    Is pretty much the same as

    That means the Dem’s are either lying about their end of the economy predictions

    To be fair, both parties have issued “The sky is falling!” predictions. Only the Dems have the ability to act as if they actually believe their own rhetoric.

    How much Republican cover do they need? They have the Senate and the President already; if they say they need the House Republicans as well, then in what sense are they a majority party, fit to govern? This is all about political ass-covering – either its really necessary, and they will take responsibility, or its not, and they want cover for a massive wealth transfer.

  16. I was just listening to that song.

  17. “We will only take your predictions seriously and vote for this plan if you are able to convince the members of your own party that they are true.”

    Why shouldn’t the Dems use their own judgment on the seriousness of the crisis? Either they believe its a crisis, or they don’t. If they need the Republicans to make up their minds for them, then they truly are a pathetic excuse for a governing majority.

    Although, to be fair, they probably learned this at the Republican’s knee, when the Repubs failed to pass anything recognizable as tax or entitlement reform when they had the majority, because not enough Dems would sign on.

  18. Is pretty much the same as

    No, it’s not. Saying a bill needs to pass soon is not the same thing as saying it must pass now.

    if they say they need the House Republicans as well, then in what sense are they a majority party, fit to govern?

    You made an almost identical argument about the Sunni boycott of the 2005 Iraqi elections. Significant minorities matter in a Democracy, RC. Ramming important things through with 50% +1 is just bad practice, if it can be avoided.

  19. RC,

    How did ramming though an AUMF without getting substantial buy-in from the minority party work out?

    It’s funny, you’re always slagging Barack Obama about a (mythical) lack of desire to work in an bipartisan manner. And now, it’s a sign that the Democrats can’t be trusted to govern if they won’t ram things through on a party line vote.

  20. The Republicans failed to push through “tax reform” when they had the majority?

    Huh?

  21. Only the Dems have the ability to act as if they actually believe their own rhetoric.

    You’re talking about the majority that can’t even pull in the reins on Iraq. If Pelosi and Reid were any more impotent I’d prescribe some Viagra.

  22. How did ramming though an AUMF without getting substantial buy-in from the minority party work out?

    Pretty well, for the Dems. They’ve been campaigning on it ever since, well, this summer, when it started looking like we had the upper hand after all.

    Regardless, it was an example of the majority party acting like it was willing to govern, to take action based on what it said it believed, without waiting for political cover.

    The Republicans failed to push through “tax reform” when they had the majority?

    Sure. Repealing the estate tax, making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

  23. I wish I could see video of these talks. They sound very entertaining.

    Maybe they won’t pass something in enough time for it to be credible that they still need to pass something.
    In that case they will either
    1. Scrap the whole thing and be like “oh well, guess we didn’t need to do anything anyway”
    2. Use it as an excuse to structure some other crazy-shit bill that they pass as having the same stabilizing goal as the original bailout plan, and still fucking everything up in the process even though it was clear to everyone that nothing needed to be done

    my guess in that scenerio would be #2

  24. It’s funny, you’re always slagging Barack Obama about a (mythical) lack of desire to work in an bipartisan manner.

    Not exactly. I’ve said the high-flown rhetoric isn’t matched by anything substantive. In particular, I’ve wanted to see the very opposite of this kind of ass-covering bipartisanship – departing from the standard party line to work with Republicans on something he actually believes in.

    And now, it’s a sign that the Democrats can’t be trusted to govern if they won’t ram things through on a party line vote.

    Its all about whether you really believe in what you say you believe in, and are willing to take action and responsibility for it. If you do, you are willing to reach across the aisle when necessary, and go ahead without the opposition party when necessary. See, its not that complicated.

  25. Pretty well, for the Dems. They’ve been campaigning on it ever since, well, this summer, when it started looking like we had the upper hand after all.

    Regardless, it was an example of the majority party acting like it was willing to govern, to take action based on what it said it believed, without waiting for political cover.

    Nice dodge. The actual answer to the question asked was, “Well, I spent four years wailing that the ongoing dispute over the war was KILLING AMERICAN TROOPS and EMBOLDENING THE ENEMY, so I guess I have to admit that ramming things through and creating a strong opposition movement can be very dangerous.”

    Sure. Repealing the estate tax, making the Bush tax cuts permanent. Wait, what “Bush tax cuts?” I thought you just said they failed to enact tax reform.

    How is a $700 billion bailout package mind-bogglingly huge, but a $1.3 trillion tax package not worth noticing?

  26. Not exactly. I’ve said the high-flown rhetoric isn’t matched by anything substantive.

    You mean, except for Obama-Lugar, Obama-Coburn, and Obama-McCain, I guess.

    See, its not that complicated. No, it’s not that complicated. Heads I win, tails you lose. Those Democrats refuse to see the importance of bipartisanship, except when they don’t, which is wrong, too.

  27. As if Peloser’s ego wasn’t big enough now she has Pigson kneeling down before her! WTF did he offer to kiss her ring as well.

    If this does not show the country they ALL need to go nothing will.

    I had planned to purchase a new target rifle this year but with the potential for Obama to win and pass a new and improved Assault Weapons ban I am thinking about a HK G3 in .308 and about 25 or so thirty round magazines and 10,000 rounds of ammo. Very impractical for my shooting needs but when it becomes practical it iwill be at hand. Better investment than any stock thats for damn sure.

  28. Crisis schmisis. The Democrats take Bush on face value because he reinforces their pathetic prejudice on free market capitalism. If Bush were talking about the necessity to invade Jihadiland in order to supposedly secure the Fatherland, would Democrats still act as they do now?

  29. I am thinking about a HK G3 in .308 and about 25 or so thirty round magazines and 10,000 rounds of ammo

    Always go Russian, my friend. No maintenance and ammo is everywhere.

  30. the national. good ref.

  31. Joe,
    Adding in a ule that says Barney frank can give money to his friedns as well is not acceptable. We don’t need to subsidize Paulson’s friends or bilionaire Warren Buffet.
    Your own socialist philosophy should be accepting of the idea that subsidies to the rich are bad. If we must subsidize the rich at least subsidize the ones who don’t recklessly gamble on bad loans. The socialist who want to “give to the poor” should be just as angry about this bailout as those of us who fear our economy is headed towards a totalitarian type system.

  32. there is no crisis, really. it’s just politics and a power grab by both parties. and they managed to convince every banker and stock broker in this country and worldwide that there is a crisis when there is in fact no crisis. bush, the most stupid president in history, is suddenly smart enough to single-handedly manipulate all the bond yield spreads in the world to make it look like a liquidity disaster. he single-handedly convinced every stock market on the planet to tank, just to get support for his plan. after all, he masterminded 9/11 and probably killed jfk as well, so it’s not that hard to create a giant conspiracy in which the entire financial world believes there is a crisis…but only the true believers on H&R know that it’s all a sham. hey, maybe the stock market hasn’t even plummeted…maybe all those numbers we see on the big board are part of the conspiracy too.

  33. I’m a liberal, Gabe.

    Maybe you can find a socialist to converse with, if you want to talk about socialism.

  34. jmd, No one is saying there is NO crises only that it is not what Paulson says it is and that this $700 billion bailout of Wall Street is not the appropriate solution to it. Neither Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, or Merrill Lynch affected the man in the street very much, and nor would allowing the market to continue to work at clearing out all the bad debt by write downs as occurred in those three cases. Yes the financial markets will take a hit, but it will not affect the majority of the citizenry. If we are talking about lost jobs that can easily be made up by the government hiring for infrastructure rehabilitation, alternative energy research, public transportation, housing projects, green jobs, health care funding, etc. If they have a trillion dollars to giveaway to the creditors on Wall Street then certainly they can redirect those funds to dealing with the fall out as that bad debt is gradually purged from the financial system. In a couple years we would be looking to much better times ahead.

  35. Maybe the Dems are actually thinking “this is a serious shit sandwich that is going to explode in our faces eventually, so we want bipartisan support so we don’t take sole blame”.

    I think this is quite correct.

    I said in a thread the other day that I believe the GOP would love nothing better than for the Dems to align themselves with Bush and bailout wall street so that they can campaign against the Dems on the issue.

    You think GOP house and senate members are stupid? They know which way the wind is blowing – they know that most Americans don’t want Wall street to be bailed out at their expense. Despite the MSM pretending like McCain made a gaffe here, I think he comes off looking good and fiscally responsible to the average American.

    The Dems were too busy not being the least bit skeptical of Paulson and the administrations claims and only thinking about what concessions they could get. They thought they had a winner by believing that the GOP would fall in line behind Bush. It was a bad political decision.

    If the Dems were smart they would have pounced on the “we just chose a big number” statement, and offered a $150-250 Billion dollar bailout, with lots of punitive strings attached to any firm that gets bailed out, and a promise to re-evaluate later down the line and require another vote to get more money, if needed.

    That probably would have been much more palatable to the American public, would have probably gotten some support from the GOP congressfolk and still could have stuck it to Bush.

  36. You think GOP house and senate members are stupid?

    Are we counting the ones from Oklahoma?

    Because otherwise, no, not at all.

    If the Dems were smart they would have pounced on the “we just chose a big number” statement, and offered a $150-250 Billion dollar bailout, with lots of punitive strings attached to any firm that gets bailed out, and a promise to re-evaluate later down the line and require another vote to get more money, if needed.

    Right, “Let’s come back in four months.” That’s the best strategy, and allows a nice cooling off period.

  37. If the wording of the bailout does not exclude commercial real estate AND if the wording does not exclude US taxpayer money being used by the banks to prop up other countries real estate markets on the international front, then I believe we as the US taxpayers were screwed in this bailout.

    If the wording specifically excludes all other real estate except for residential and the wording specifically excludes all other countries, then perhaps it may stop some of the hemorraghing, however, it was disappointing to hear fraudenlent mortgages increase 46% in 2008 alone in the US.

  38. The National is awesome.

    thats all.

    that and I’m glad to finally get one of the random post titles…

  39. What I want, letting the chips fall where they may, letting the borrowers and lenders and mortgage bundlers and those buyers pay for their own goddam fuckups, just ain’t gonna happen.

    Instead what we have now is a debate about how many ccs of C21H23NO5 to mainline and what vein it should go in. It’ll feel great for a while.

  40. I had planned to purchase a new target rifle this year but with the potential for Obama to win and pass a new and improved Assault Weapons ban I am thinking about a HK G3 in .308 and about 25 or so thirty round magazines and 10,000 rounds of ammo.

    Holy crap, that’s a lot of ammo. I had a G# for awhile. Really liked it, but those bastards are heavy.

    Always go Russian, my friend. No maintenance and ammo is everywhere.

    .308 is pretty easy to find, and if you buy German, it don’t need any steenkin’ maintenance. Like most military rifles, the G3 is dead easy to break down and put back anyway.

  41. joe,

    Right, “Let’s come back in four months.” That’s the best strategy, and allows a nice cooling off period.

    Ive said before that in moments of crisis, congress should be required to take a year before even considering any bills. (Declarations of War being the one exception). Want to pass the Patriot Act in response to 9/11? Sure, wait until at least September 2002.

    Want to bailout financial institutions? Sure, any that survive until next summer, you can consider bailing out.

  42. Now’s our chance. ATTACK!

  43. “””What I want, letting the chips fall where they may, letting the borrowers and lenders and mortgage bundlers and those buyers pay for their own goddam fuckups, just ain’t gonna happen.”””

    That’s what I want too, but I think it’s possible. The republicans can jam the legislation letting the market deal with it. Next thing you know, the problem solved by the market and the issue is moot.

    I still don’t know why this is a greater problem than the dotcom bust?

  44. That WHO’S DRIVING?!?! dude is pretty funny all by himself.

  45. I still don’t know why this is a greater problem than the dotcom bust?

    The CEO of Pets.com didnt have the same political connections as the CEO of Goldman Sachs.

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