20 September 2008

A crisis that could make the US election a cleaner contest by Johann Hari

It's not long and it is a must read. This article, IMO, tells one all they need to know to make their decision on November 4.

Ever heard of the Teapot Dome scandal? I'm banking that anyone reading this wasn't alive back then, and like me, might have been fuzzy on what exactly the Teapot Dome scandal entailed. Well, this article is a nice little refresher course as to what exactly this scandal was about.

A crisis that could make the US election a cleaner contest

Can the collapse of Lehman Brothers ram a rare taste of reality into the campaign? The facts are plain. John McCain enthusiastically backed every one of George Bush's moves to deregulate the banks and the mortgage industry that caused this collapse, while Barack Obama opposed them. This isn't just a credit crunch; it's a conservatism crunch. The right got their dream of a totally unregulated "shadow" banking sector –and it swiftly imploded, bringing the world economy down with it.

Yet McCain's indignant promises to "close this casino" are being reported straight, without even bothering to look at this record – or noticing that he is cashing cheques from Wall Street lobbyists as fast as they can be written. They know their man: McCain's mantra even after this collapse began was: "I am always for less regulation." Indeed, McCain's current adverts saying he will not let the "recklessness" that led to Lehman Brothers' demise happen again are in part funded by left-over donations from... Lehman Brothers.

McCain knows his stances on the economy and foreign policy are opposed by 80 percent of the population as barely-trimmed Bush. So he needs to toss up a confetti of distraction-issues instead – and Palin was the biggest distraction of all. This attempt to run down the clock was working with slick efficiency until the stock exchange's opening bell started to sound like a death-knell. He is gathering fistfuls more of confetti as we speak.

The best key to unlocking these tactics may lie in a story that might seem at first glance a yellowing old scandal, but it is actually as fresh as tomorrow's Google News. By 1920, the oil age had revved into first gear. Cars were being bought all over America, so the petrol price was at an all-time high. The bosses of Big Oil were desperate for new oilfields – and there was one in particular they coveted. In Wyoming, there was a vast oilfield called the Teapot Dome reserve, shaped like a teapot and containing more oil than the whole of California. But the oilmen were shut out: it had been set aside to supply the navy with oil if there was ever a national emergency.

So Big Oil thought of a solution. They decided to buy the presidency. A consortium led by Jake Hamon – a JR Ewing for the Jazz Age – started to buy the delegates to the 1920 Republican Convention with brown-envelope bribes, one by one. Once they owned a hefty block, they approached the initial front-runner – General Leonard Wood – and said they would make him the Republican nominee if in return he promised to make Hamon Secretary of the Interior – and therefore boss of Teapot Dome. Wood yelled: "I am an American soldier. I'll be damned if I'll betray my country! Get the hell out of here."

So Big Oil picked a different candidate instead: an obscure, bumbling Senator called Warren G Harding, who had been a 40-1 shot at the start of the convention. He had barely been out of Ohio and had only fuzzy ideas about politics – but he could be marketed as Mr Normal, the 1920s equivalent of a hockey mom. Big Oil lavishly funded a PR campaign selling him to ordinary Americans as One of You. He was pictured at baseball games eating hot dogs with his sweet family – while his opponent was presented as arid and "elitist".

5 comments:

IslandPearl said...

Not ALL one needs to know, because this author is placing the blame on the wrong (if convenient) party.

Two bills — the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, passed in1999, and the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, passed in 2000 — broke down the firewalls between Wall Street and commercial banks and banned regulation of credit default swaps.

W wasn't even inaugurated until January 2001, and never served in the Congress.


Facts. Not diatribe. Not conjecture. Facts.

I appreciate your passion, though.

Twango said...

I don't see the blame so much as going to W as going to the parties that enacted those Acts. W honestly has no place in all this, outside of the fact that McCain follows so closely the policy set forth by the current administration. The facts are that McCain has agreed with deregulation up until the last week and his voting record proves just that. He is going to be more of the same and with the mess our country has found itself in, he's just not offering enough change. Asking the Drilla from Wasilla to be his running mate when she is nothing more than Cheney in a skirt, is just not enough.

He is out of touch and in the pocket of the same lobbyists he decries so much.

He just doesn't pass the smell test.

jojo cucina cucina said...

twango, you said:
"The facts are that McCain has agreed with deregulation up until the last week and his voting record proves just that. He is going to be more of the same and with the mess our country has found itself in, he's just not offering enough change. Asking the Drilla from Wasilla to be his running mate when she is nothing more than Cheney in a skirt, is just not enough."

jojo says: "Amen".

IslandPearl said...

Biden voted for it.

We don't really know whether Obama would have supported it or not. He wasn't running for president yet.

PS Clinton failed to veto it.

Lynnie said...

A critical - and radical - component of the bailout package proposed by the Bush administration has thus far failed to garner the serious attention of anyone in the press. We cannot allow Section 8 to happen:

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

This is being under-reported, and it's a very dangerous precedent. No one person, no one administration, no Executive Branch should ever have that much power. Bush and Paulson are power-drunk. If we allow this to happen, there is no telling what they will try next.