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May 27, 2008

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As noted (briefly above) Phil Gramm, and his wife, were up to their eyeballs in facilitating the Enron disaster. UBS? BFD.

The Enron connection should be enough to totally discredit McCain as anyone you can depend on for good economic stewardship.

If Phil Gramm gets anywhere near the levers of power again, then Osama Bin Laden by comparison becomes small potatoes.

I expected more of McCain and I'm a man without expectations.

Phil Gramm is the worst America has to offer.

When the film of Gramm's life is made, we'll be sorry Lionel Barrymore wasn't around to nail the role.

"Gramm both looks like a snapping turtle and has the personality of one. When he ran for president in 1996 and finished fifth in Iowa, all the profiles written of him included the line "Even his friends don't like him." Self-righteous and strident, Gramm demonized his opponents and used bitter, polarizing rhetoric. During a Senate debate over Social Security, a member pointed out that the proposal under consideration would hurt 80-year-old retirees. "Most people don't have the luxury of living to be 80 years old," Gramm scoffed, "so it's hard for me to feel sorry for them." Well, there is that.

On another occasion, Gramm ridiculed a newspaper photo of poor people who were forced to cut corners to put food on the table. "Did you see the picture?" Gramm asked a crowd. "Here are these people who are skimping to avoid hunger and they are all fat!... We're the only nation in the world where all our poor people are fat." During the fight over health care reform, Gramm said, "We have to blow up this train and the rails and the trestle and kill everyone on board." When an elderly widow in Corsicana told him that cutting Medicare would make it more difficult for her to remain independent, Gramm said, "You haven't thought about a new husband, have you?"

When he first ran for Senate in 1984, Gramm's main attack ad focused on how his opponent, a young state senator, had received a check for $600 raised by a gay group at a male strip joint in San Antonio. He had not solicited the contribution and promptly returned it, but Gramm ran lurid ads about the gay strip show for months.

His tactics have not won him any friends among Texas politicians. Gramm is notorious for letting Texas congressmen do all the work of getting federal projects in their districts and then stepping up to claim credit when the project is approved. The noun for this is "Grammstanding," and it is now part of the political lexicon.

Gramm, the great crusader against government spending, has spent his entire life on the government tit. He was born at a military hospital, raised on his father's Army pay, went to private school at Georgia Military Academy on military insurance after his father died, paid for his college tuition with same, got a National Defense Fellowship to graduate school, taught at a state-supported school, and made generous use of his Senate expense account. In 1987, a Dallas developer named Jerry Stiles flew a construction crew to Maryland to work on Gramm's summer home. Stiles spent $117,000 on the project but was kind enough to bill Gramm only $63,433. When Stiles got in trouble for misusing funds from a savings and loan he owned, Gramm did him some "routine" favors with regulators. Stiles was later convicted on 11 counts of conspiracy and bribery.

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee and the recipient of enormous banking contributions, Gramm did an even bigger favor for the financial industry in 1999 when he sponsored the Financial Services Modernization Act allowing banks, securities firms, and insurance companies to combine. The bill weakened the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to help meet the credit needs of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods. Gramm described community groups that use the CRA as "protection rackets" that extort funds from the poor, powerless banks. The bill is also a disaster for the privacy of bank customers and weakens regulatory supervision. As Gramm proudly declared, "You're not going to find a single bank, insurance company, or securities company that will say they were hurt financially by this bill."

To be fair, Gramm occasionally found it in his heart to assist the poor -- like the time he suggested that mothers on welfare would be better off working for $2.50 an hour. A more typical Gramm vote, though, came on an energy bill that benefited oil and gas companies at the expense of consumers. "There are winners and losers in every economic decision," Gramm said portentously. He was then getting more oil and gas money than any other member of the Senate."

-Molly Ivins

I guess McCain really ought to know:

Lie down with dogs, get up with Phil Gramm.

Hilzoy: My best guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that there are certain things about himself that McCain is so sure of that he does not see how he could ever be challenged on them.

Well, he has cause to think so, doesn't he?

Google News has 52 hits on McCain Gramm - some of them unrelated stories.

Google-news Obama Wright, and you get 25,657 hits. (For comparison, you get 1,989 for McCain Hagee.)

As Avedon Carol noted recently on Sideshow, McCain doesn't even need to plan on getting the votes to win: he just needs the media narrative to make it look plausible that he won - and let the Republican election-riggers do what they did for Bush in 2000 and 2004.

What are you guys talking about? Aren't the Dems still battling it out?

The difference between Phil Gramm and a bag is shit is the bag.

The difference between John McCain and a bag of shit is...I'll get back to you on this.

democommie: the posting rules forbid profanity.

My best guess -- and it's only a guess -- is that there are certain things about himself that McCain is so sure of that he does not see how he could ever be challenged on them.

This is a close relative of Bush's mentality -- such a degree of utter certainty that he does not question. It's been a very damaging thing for this country, and we don't need more of that.

Sashi, it's also related to the idea that because Americans are "the good guys", anything the US does must be good. If it appears that the US is torturing people, the reality must be that whatever is being done is not torture. If the US captures someone and holds him without charge, legal process, or any intention of releasing him, he must be a bad guy who deserves it. And so on.

KDinDC I think you hit the nail on the head. That sort of thinking, I believe, is a prime cause of the foreign policy mess the US is currently in. 9/11 was a huge tragedy and it's understandable that it would take time to recover from both the shock and the loss. But after that, the focus should have been on trying to understand why it happened so that we could knowledgeably take steps to prevent it from happening again. But no. After 9/11 you couldn't question. We were good. They were evil. End of story. No thought. No questioning.

I agree with you that that entire mentality is related to the idea that because Americans are "the good guys", anything the US does must be good whether it's torture or invading ("liberating") another country or whatever.

By not thinking in absolutes, I can see that I am a good person who sometimes does things that are wrong. I am a smart person who sometimes does things that are dumb and not in my best interest. It is only by open self-reflection and questioning that I can learn and understand things better so I can make better future choices.

Black and white thinking stops this process cold. Whether it's a person or a country, believing in absolutes stops questioning. Stop the questioning, and you start getting poorer results. No wonder our US foreign relations is currently in such a mess.

While not a Democrat, this is one of the main reasons I am such an active Obama supporter. Obama questions. He openly listens. And he admits mistakes. In fact in his stump speech he specifically says that he will make mistakes. Have we ever heard that from Bush? Or Clinton?

What Hilzoy is saying about McCain isn't so much about his certainty stopping personal questioning, but about his certainty expected to stop others' questioning. But I think the two are related, with absolute certainty being a dangerous thing, regardless.

"Black and white thinking stops this process cold. Whether it's a person or a country, believing in absolutes stops questioning. Stop the questioning, and you start getting poorer results."

I'm reminded that this is also viewable as a map/territory confusion as known via General Semantics.

If your mental map is that the U.S. must be doing good, you won't notice the territory of torture, and imprisonment without any kind of due process.

... and people who do notice are "unpatriotic".

democommie may have broken the profanity rules, but he (she?) made me laugh.

"Gramm both looks like a snapping turtle and has the personality of one. When he ran for president in 1996 and finished fifth in Iowa, all the profiles written of him included the line "Even his friends don't like him."

Economic adviser nothing. We're looking at Vice Presidential material here!

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