• As during the debate itself, McCain made much of his antagonism to earmarks. Since the president’s only choice with earmarked bills is to sign them or veto them, was he pledging to veto every earmarked bill? More important, Obama made the case Friday night that earmarks amount to $18 billion a year, less than two months of the Iraq war, and a puny amount compared to the total budget, let alone the $700 billion figure tossed around as the cost of this week’s bailout. What does McCain make of that?
• “You made an extraordinary decision this week to suspend the campaign,” Stephanopoulos said. Many commentators have pointed out that, while he was supposedly suspending his campaign, his offices remained open, he fund-raised, and his ads ran. This is not opinion, this is fact. The proper way to broach the subject would have been: “You made a decision to say that you were suspending your campaign. But you did X, Y, and Z. What about that?”
• Stephanopoulos asked a good question about the Congressional bailout deliberations for which McCain “suspended” his campaign: “So what role did you play? How were you helpful, do you believe, in the process?” McCain: “I will let you and others be the judge of that.” A repeat of the question suggests itself, since McCain blew it off the first time. But there was no second time.
• Stephanopoulos was pointed when he said: “[Y]our own economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, told The New York Times, said the campaign cannot yet project how many taxpayers might see their taxes go up, but for some, Mr. McCain’s health care tax credits would not be large enough to compensate for his proposal to eliminate the tax breaks.” McCain responded: “Actually, my position is that it will be able to give people actually more money to go out and purchase tax — health — health insurance on their own.” But the next position ought to have been: On what basis? Your chief economic adviser says otherwise. Why do you hold your position?
• Finally, Stephanopoulos managed a valuable observation about McCain campaign proximity to the accursed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: “[Y]our own campaign chairman has taken millions of dollars from Fannie and Freddie Mae and their supporters. Your own legislative liaison, the man directing your transition, your senior adviser, all of them have taken money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for several years, right up until last month.” McCain led with his standard what-do-I-care-what-the-peons-say response: “Anybody can make whatever charge they want .The facts are that none of my campaign people are lobbying or receiving a dime for lobbying and have not for a long period of time they haven’t for actually, I think, for two years, the latest one. Some of them have never been.”
This was a start, but only a start. “The latest one”—the latest campaign official to take Fannie Mae money—is his campaign manager, Rick Davis. But Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff and Holly Bailey report this week that “Freddie Mac, the troubled mortgage giant that was recently placed under federal conservatorship, paid [Davis’s] firm $15,000 a month between 2006 and August 2008 .the payments to Davis’s firm, Davis Manafort, are especially problematic because he requested the consulting retainer in 2006—and then did barely any work for the fees, according to two sources familiar with the arrangement who asked not to be identified discussing Freddie Mac business.” As David Kirkpatrick wrote in the NYT Sept. 23, “The disclosure undercuts a statement by Mr. McCain on Sunday night that the campaign manager, Rick Davis, had had no involvement with the company for the last several years.”
It gets worse. Not only was Davis drawing money from McCain via his Davis Manafort company, but, according to Isikoff and Bailey, “another entity created and partly owned by Davis—an Internet firm called 3eDC, whose address was the same office building as Davis Manafort’s—received payments from the McCain campaign for Web services, collecting $971,860 through March 2008.”
When McCain reverted to his claim that he’s as maverick as all get-out, Stephanopoulos stood by and watched.