By Matthew Yglesias on
September 17, 2008 at 12:45 pm
"Against AIG Bailout Before He Was For It"
When I saw the following dialogue on the Today show yesterday, I got this crazy idea in my head that if the federal government decided to do a takeover/bailout of AIG, that McCain would oppose such action:
MCCAIN: No, I do not believe that the American taxpayer should be on the hook for AIG and I’m glad that the Secretary Paulson is apparently taking the same line.
LAUER: If we get to the point middle of the week as we heard in that report where AIG might have to file for bankruptcy, they’re on their own?
MCCAIN: Well, quote “on their own,” we cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else.
It didn’t seem like a very ambiguous statement to me, though McCain did arguably look (as he often does when discussing anything other than the need to kill foreigners) a bit out of his depth:
But then later that day, along came the Fed with a bailout that very much leaves the taxpayer “on the hook for AIG.” Most folks of both parties seem to agree that this was a necessary step, but it would be pretty mavericky of McCain to stick with his guns on this. Instead, he had the other kind of mavericky response, which was to change his position, issuing a pro-bailout statement that led Mark Ambinder to wonder “Did McCain not understand the severity of what an AIG collapse would mean yesterday?” The good thing about being a maverick, I guess, is that either response would have sufficed as a mavericky one. Or else that McCain just doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Consider that an actual policymaker in the midst of an financial crisis would need to choose his words very carefully lest some ill-considered loose comment touch of a panic.