The McCain Campaign Gets Sleazy | Give or Take $100 Million

The Real McCain—“What does he plan for America?” John McCain asked a crowd at a rally in Albuquerque. “In short, who is, who is the real Obama?” Someone in the crowd shouted: “Terrorist!” McCain paused and smiled. It was a smile that recalled McCain’s response at a political rally during the primaries, when it appeared he would be facing Hillary Clinton.

“How do we beat the bitch?” a woman asked McCain.

“Excellent question,” the United States senator responded.

In Albuquerque, McCain, who seems to have checked his integrity in the Senate cloakroom when he began his second presidential campaign, pressed on with another “But, my friends . . .” line.

On that day, in Florida, Sarah Palin was tossing raw meat to a Republican mob. Palin didn’t depend on the crowd to make the “terrorist” claim. The Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank reports on Palin describing Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers, the Chicago professor who was a member of the radical Weather Underground three decades ago. “Now it turns out that one of his earliest supporters is a man named Bill Ayers,” Palin said. “And, according to the New York Times, he was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote ‘launched a campaign of bombings that would target and threaten the Pentagon and our U.S. Capitol.'”

“Kill him!” someone in the audience shouted.

But kill whom? Ayers? Obama? Palin pressed on.

“These are the same guys who think that patriotism is paying higher taxes. Remember, that’s what Joe Biden said. And I’m just so fearful that this is not a man who sees America in the way you and I see America. I’m afraid this is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to work with a former domestic terrorist who had targeted his own country.”

On the same day, the director of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania was reading from the same page. Talking Points Memo posted (for a national readership) the reporting of the Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch. Bunch leads with the subject line of what he describes as the “sleaziest political press release I’ve ever seen.”

“PAGOP: OBAMA—A TERRORIST’S BEST FRIEND.”

Bunch reprinted Pennsylvania Republican Party Chair Robert A. Gleason’s entire press release. In it Gleason advanced the same claim that Palin did in Florida, regarding Ayers. This, despite extensive reporting by several media outlets that Obama had only a casual relationship with Ayers, a professor and public school reformer in Chicago.

“Seriously, this is the kind of crap that people usually put on people’s car windshields at 3 in the morning, unsigned and in crude block letters,” Bunch wrote.

Other People’s Money—How do you defend yourself against a Congressman who asks why you walked away with $480 million, while your employees are no longer receiving the modest monthly severance checks and health coverage promised them, your stockholders are holding worthless paper, and your creditors are in bankruptcy court?

You correct the numbers.

In the first of a series of hearings he has scheduled to examine what went wrong on Wall Street, House Government Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) confronted Richard Fuld, the CEO of the now bankrupt investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Waxman did the numbers:

2000—$52 million
2001—$98 million
2005—$89 million
2006—$100 million

“Since 2000, you took home $480 million!” Waxman told an imperious Fuld. Fuld took issue with Waxman’s figures and suggested that his earnings were closer to $380 million. And that he still holds eight million shares of Lehman stock, so he, too, suffered a loss.

Waxman asked Fuld how he could justify signing off on $20 million in severance pay for two executives fired four days before Lehman filed for bankruptcy. He also wanted to know why Fuld agreed that $2 billion of a $5 billion loan Lehman was about to secure should be used to buy up company stock in order to punish a short-seller (“and hurting Einhorn bad!”) whom Fuld believed had driven Lehman’s stock price down.

We’ll have more in these pages as the Waxman hearings continue.