The world's turned upside down. We've got just about a month and a half before Election Day, and yet there's some pretty sharp criticism of the Republican presidential nominee appearing on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
It comes back to an old truth -- no matter how partisan it is (and it's very, very partisan), the WSJ's editorial board typically puts loyalty to its economic philosophy above loyalty to the Republican Party. And on the trail recently, John McCain has been saying things that don't fit the usual GOP orthodoxy on the economy. But it seems what the WSJ is really upset about is that McCain doesn't actually come off as all that knowledgeable about -- or committed to -- what he's saying.
Some choice sections from the paper's editorial:
John McCain has made it clear this week he doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does. But on Thursday, he took his populist riffing up a notch and found his scapegoat for financial panic -- Christopher Cox, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission ...
Mr. McCain clearly wants to distance himself from the Bush Administration. But this assault on Mr. Cox is both false and deeply unfair. It's also un-Presidential ...
While he was at it, Mr. McCain added the wholly unsupported assertion that "speculators pounded the shares of even good companies into the ground." It wasn't very long ago that he blamed speculators on the long side for sky-high oil prices. Then oil prices fell. Now Mr. McCain wants voters to believe speculators are responsible for driving mismanaged financial companies to ruin. The irony is that this critique puts Mr. McCain in the same camp as some of the Wall Street CEOs who have led their firms so poorly. They also want someone (else) to blame.
In case Mr. McCain is interested, overall short interest in financial companies actually declined by 20% between July and the end of August. That's right: Far from driving this crisis, shorts were net buyers of financial stocks this summer, as they must buy stocks back to close their positions and realize their gains (or losses).
In a crisis, voters want steady, calm leadership, not easy, misleading answers that will do nothing to help. Mr. McCain is sounding like a candidate searching for a political foil rather than a genuine solution. He'll never beat Mr. Obama by running as an angry populist like Al Gore, circa 2000.