There is a ticking time bomb in the John McCain campaign and the sooner that Barack Obama can turn his full attention to exploiting it the bigger and consequential the explosion should be for this phony maverick.
Phil Gramm, who is co-chair of McCain's campaign, is not just another lobbyist. He is the man most responsible for the repeal of Depression-era banking regulations that have led directly and inextricably to much of today's economic turmoil, and parlayed that classic example of legislative legerdemain into a lucrative lobbying career for the very people who scratched the smug Texan's back -- as well as McCain's -- on Capitol Hill.
was the biggest of the big guns behind the 1999 repeal of the banking regulations -- the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act -- which was officially called The Financial Services Modernization Act. (Don't you just love the name!)
Passage of the law was greased with an astonishing $300 million in lobbying money, and it encountered little opposition other than from those old-fashioned banks that actually insure your deposits, while receiving the enthusiastic blessing of the Bill and Hillary Clinton co-presidency. And you had better believe that the so hands-on First Lady was all for it.
One of many consequences of the repeal was that a year later the Swiss bank UBS gobbled up brokerage house Paine Weber. A year after that, Gramm settled in as a vice chairman of UBS's new investment banking arm and has since energetically lobbied Congress, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department on banking and mortgage issues.
This has included rolling back state rules that sought to stem the rise of predatory tactics used by lenders and brokers that led directly to the subprime mortrage meltdown, which cost USB more than $19 billion in writedowns this week and the prospect of massive job cuts.
McCain and Gramm go way back.
In 1992, the two worked closely as senators to defeat Hillary Clinton's 1993 health care plan, and in 1996 McCain was national chairman of Gramm's unsuccessful presidential run.
In 2002, as the full extent of the Enron scandal was emerging, The New York Times called Gramm "a demon for deregulation" as one of the chief engineers of the stealthy approval of a bill that exempted energy commodity trading from government regulation and public disclosure.
Meanwhile, Gramm's wife Wendy was paid over $1 million in salary, stock options, dividends and other goodies from 1993 to 2001 as an Enron board member, but of course was deaf, dumb and blind to the energy company's rampant cooking its books with the acquiescence of the late unlamented Arthur Andersen accounting company.
The result was economic ruin for thousands of families.
We can be certain that even more wrack and ruin will be in the offing with a McCain presidency. This includes more of the Rich Come First economic voodoo that the Bush administration has visited upon Main Street while Wall Street investment banks got fat and happy until their greed bit them in their collective ass and they had to come begging for taxpayer bailouts. Which of course they are getting, no (serious) questions asked.Considering the pain and suffering that Gramm's masterwork has caused ordinary Americans, it is not hyperbolic to say that he is a terrorist, he just doesn't wear funny looking headgear and carry a Kalashikov.
McCain acknowledges that he's "no expert" and "doesn't understand" the economy. That is worrisome enough, but that he is relying on a terrorist in pinstripes to figure things out for him is . . . well, terrifying.
Photo by Gabriel Chmielewski/College Station Eagle via AP