Can McCain sell himself as a Wall Street reformer?

His record shows the opposite, but the Republican has come out swinging, and Obama needs to fight back.

Published September 19, 2008 2:00PM (EDT)

The unfolding crisis in the financial sector created a new political opportunity for Barack Obama. He's the person with a real plan for cleaning up the mess -- he outlined new strategies for regulation, accountability and transparency in a speech last March. He's the one proposing measures to keep more families in their homes and limit foreclosures. John McCain isn't up to the task -- earlier this year he described himself as "fundamentally a deregulator," and on Tuesday his answer to the crisis was to form a 9/11 commission.

So I was feeling like Obama had new wind at his back politically – until I saw the two ads Obama and McCain released on Wednesday. Wow. McCain, who has absolutely zero plans for solving this problem, depicts himself as a tough guy and a fighter who'll vanquish the bad guy. It's a 30-second spot, edited to make McCain look like an action figure. Obama, by contrast, produced a two-minute ad -- when what he needs is a two-sentence ad. I examine them in this week's Current video (text continues below):

And on Thursday McCain stepped up the attacks, (falsely) accusing Obama of blocking Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform, while his advisors claimed Obama was "cheerleading" the economic crisis. He also said if he were president he would fire SEC chairman Christopher Cox -- despite the fact that the president doesn't have the power to remove him. I loathe McCain's strategy, but I wish the Obama team would marry its substantive plans for economic reform with McCain's fighting spirit. Obama sounds feistier on the stump lately and that's good, but he needs to can the plans for two-minute ads and make his proposals concrete for worried voters.

By Joan Walsh

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections