Back during the Democratic primaries, there was an awkward period when both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton suddenly transformed into friends of the working man. Now it’s John McCain’s turn. In a speech yesterday McCain mocked Obama for being off in Hollywood at a fund-raiser with Barbra Streisand. “Let me tell you, friends, there’s no place I’d rather be than here with the hard-working men and women of Ohio,” he told the hard-working men and women of Ohio who were at a campaign rally in the middle of a workday. Maybe because he already had his multi-million-dollar Hollywood fund-raiser a few weeks ago. Or maybe Hathaello were busy. But, of course, McCain has always hated on celebrities. What’s new is that with Wall Street in full meltdown mode, McCain has instantaneously also become an opponent of greed and lax financial oversight, leaving some wondering where this new populist hero came from.
• Marc Ambinder writes, “It’s been a while since we’ve seen this side of him, but McCain was once a populist.” That was, until “he listened to advisers who urged him to become an orthodox Republican on the economy, and the past was forgotten.” [Atlantic]
• Michael Crowley notes that though McCain is now blaming “greed” for the Wall Street crisis, “a year ago he certainly didn’t sound like a guy who saw much of a problem with the by-then-obvious excesses of Wall Street.” [Stump/New Republic]
• Jonathan Stein believes it’s clear, and offers historical quotes as evidence, “that what John McCain is advocating in the face of these new developments in the economy is completely antithetical to his actual beliefs.” [Mojo/Mother Jones]
• Matt Yglesias calls McCain’s anti-greed stance “pretty strange stuff.” “Does he really think that as president he’s going to find a way to put a stop to greed?” More likely, this is another case of McCain being “long on moralism, and short on practical policy solutions.” [Think Progress]
• Jennifer Skalka examines McCain’s quick evolution “from reformer to crisis herald to populist” in a span of 24 hours this week. By Tuesday, the “Populist McCain” emerged, but “[s]ince when does McCain … rail against greed?… Seems like a confused message.” [Hotline/National Journal]
• Steve Benen finds it, “to put it mildly, terribly odd to read” McCain go off on greed. “He’s never lifted a finger to rein in Wall Street’s excesses — indeed, he’s actively opposed anyone who tried.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]
• Alex Koppelman notes that while McCain bashes “multimillion dollar payouts and golden parachutes,” his own senior adviser Carly Fiorina “walked away [from Hewlett Packard] with a nice little chunk of change valued, by different estimates, at $21 million or $42 million. In doing so, she became a symbol of the kind of payouts McCain and Palin were speaking out against.” [War Room/Salon]
• Joan Walsh says McCain “appeared to be blindsided by the continuing chaos in the financial markets.” His idea “for the equivalent of a ‘9/11 Commission’ to look at the mess in the financial markets … should frighten anyone who wants to get to the bottom of what happened, and fix it.” [Salon]
• The New York Times editorial board claims that the financial crisis was caused not just by “unbridled corruption and greed,” as McCain put it, but by “a failure to do the things that temper, detect and punish corruption and greed,” which is “rooted in a markets-are-good-government-is-bad ideology that has been ascendant as long as Mr. McCain has been in Washington and championed by his own party.” [NYT]
• Michael Shear writes that, because of his record of deregulation, McCain is now “scrambling to recast himself as a champion of regulation to end ‘reckless conduct, corruption and unbridled greed’ on Wall Street.” [WP]
• Scott Helman sees a “striking departure from his platform of corporate tax breaks and an extension of President Bush’s tax cuts” in McCain’s assumption of the populist mantle. [Boston Globe]
• Ramesh Ponnuru calls McCain’s support for regulation “vacuous,” because it doesn’t actually lay out any specifics. McCain has not, despite reports, shown a “generalized hostility to regulation.” But his instinct to frame “our financial turmoil solely as a morality play” that can be solved by regulation is a “bad idea.” [Corner/National Review]
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.