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PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST, TRNN: John McCain has been a Washington insider for 26 years. In the last 8 years he voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time. He admits he knows nothing about economics. Even some of his advisers admit he cannot run a company. But he knows K Street very well. The campaign of the self-styled maverick happens to be swamped by lobbyists working all around here. When the US was hit by a cataclysmic financial meltdown last week—that’s the worst since the Great Depression, with $1 trillion up in smoke—McCain, well, he stuck to his guns.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, US PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (R): People are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

ESCOBAR: It took him a few hours to correct himself. He meant American workers, the backbone of the economy, were strong. But then, the next day, he had switched to declaring the Wall Street meltdown, I quote, “a total crisis,” and turned into a populist, “denouncing,” I quote, “’greed’ on Wall Street and here in Washington.” One day, he totally rejected a taxpayer bailout for mega-insurer AIG. The next day, he said the Fed had been, I quote, “forced” into an $80 billion taxpayer bailout. But with John McCain in control, this would never happen again. So he would have fired the chairman of the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, if he were president. But none of his advisors told him that the president does not have this power. Wall Street, through its Rupert Murdoch-controlled voice, was less than pleased. But wait—maybe he didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.

MCCAIN: That’s why I believe that the chairman of the FEC should resign and leave office and be replaced.

ESCOBAR: McCain thought the SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, was the FEC, the Federal Election Commission. Oh, never mind. When in doubt, blame Obama.

MCCAIN: My friends, this is the problem with Washington. People like Senator Obama have been too busy gaming the system and haven’t ever done a thing to actually challenge the system. We’ve heard a lot of words from Senator Obama over the course of this campaign, but maybe just this once he could spare us the lectures and admit to his own poor judgment in contributing to these problems. The crisis on Wall Street started in the Washington culture of lobbying and influence-peddling, and he was right square in the middle of it.

ESCOBAR: McCain now rails nonstop against the, I quote, “inside-the-beltway, old-boy network” that’s around here, and executives, I quote, “walking away with pay packages for failed enterprises.” Well, he’s talking about his friends. Examples: William Timmons is a major Washington lobbyist. He worked for every Republican president since Nixon. He registered to lobby 2008 for, among others, the American Petroleum Institute, Freddie Mac, Visa, and Anheuser-Busch. So? Well, McCain the maverick and his campaign, they tapped this lobbyist for Freddie Mac and oil companies to conduct a study for the presidential transition in case McCain is elected. We have to remember that the current McCain economic plan, if he remembers it well, will deliver no less than $3.8 billion in tax cuts to the top five US oil companies. Wayne Berman, McCain’s national finance co-chair, is a paid lobbyist with Ogilvy Government Relations, which lobbies for Chevron and the Hess oil corporations. Chevron and Hess are both at the center of the ultra-sordid scandal, even by Washington standards, about sex, drugs, oil, and the Interior Department. One of McCain’s top economic advisors is former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Yes, she’s the one who said that he could not run a company. Fiorina got a $42 million golden parachute when she was fired. Employees for Merrill Lynch, sharing top billing in the current economic disaster movie, they have donated over $100,000 more to McCain than to Obama. So while The Wall Street Journal now may be fuming against McCain, The New York Times concluded that “… he has never departed in any major way from his party’s embrace of deregulation and relying more on market forces than on the government to exert discipline.” As for McCain’s economic strategy, does the Keating Five scandal ring a bell?

John McCain and the Keating 5: Third Term
Produced by Progressive Accountability

VOICEOVER: It’s the same thing that’s happening now, as banks fail, as our housing market collapses, and people responsible for this new crisis are the ones McCain has surrounded himself with, men like Phil Graham, his banking lobbyist. He’s offering the same kind of deregulatory policies that led to the banking collapse in the early ’90s.

ESCOBAR: Then there’s this piece in, one again, Wall Street Journal, written by Martin Feldstein. He has been on the board of directors of AIG since 1988. AIG, before being taken over by the US government, had to pay a $1.6 million fine to the SEC, plus a $1.6 billion settlement to the state of New York in 2005 for soliciting rigged bids for insurance contracts from insurers. Feldstein’s a professor of economics at Harvard. He happens to be economic advisor to John McCain. Or maybe not anymore—the McCain campaign simply won’t talk about it. That’s so embarrassing, especially after McCain blasted the management of AIG. So McCain may not have a clue about the economy, but what about foreign policy, of which he is a self-styled expert? The icing on McCain’s foreign policy cake goes to his by-now-legendary interview last week with Radio Caracol Miami. In the interview, McCain demonized all the usual suspects. He says he would not talk to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He says that Chavez and Morales in Bolivia are, I quote, “very similar.” He brags about his knowledge of Latin America, saying:

McCain’s interview with Radio Caracol Miami

MCCAIN: I know the issues, I know the leaders.

ESCOBAR: He blasts Cuba, and he blasts Obama for never being south of the border. And then:


INTERVIEWER: Senator, finally, let’s talk about Spain. If you’re elected president, would you be willing to invite José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to the White House to meet with you?

MCCAIN: I would be willing to meet with those leaders who [are] our friends and want to work with us in a cooperative fashion. And, by the way, President Calderón of Mexico is fighting a very, very tough fight against the drug cartels. I have a clear record of working with leaders in the hemisphere that are friends with us and standing up to those who are not. And that’s judged on the basis of the importance of our relationship with Latin America.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. What about Europe? I’m talking about the president of Spain.

MCCAIN: [inaudible]

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Are you willing to meet with him if you are elected president?

MCCAIN: I am willing to meet with any leader who is dedicated to the same principles and philosophy that we are for human rights, democracy, and freedom.


ESCOBAR: So what was that? Was McCain thinking that Spain is a rogue state somewhere in Latin America and Zapatero’s like the Zapatistas in Mexico? Or was McCain thinking like his neocon buddies, still hating Zapatero because he pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq? And it gets worse. McCain’s foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann—oops, another lobbyist, for the government of Georgia—he sent an email to The Washington Post, saying that McCain would not meet Zapatero, and this after McCain himself told Spain’s top paper El País last April that he would sit down with Zapatero.

TEXT ON SCREEN: “I would like (Zapatero) to visit the US. . . . We have many more values and goals in common than differences that divide us.” – John McCain, April 8, 2008, AFP

ESCOBAR: So Scheunemann would rather throw a nuclear bomb into Spanish-American relations in every media outlet in Spain, in Western Europe, and all over Latin America. Everybody was on this story, but not US corporate media. You know, Scheunemann did this instead of admitting that McCain was clueless, or worse, came out with his guns blazing when he didn’t even know what he was talking about. Now talk about, I quote, “rebuilding the trans-Atlantic relationship.” Is there any redemption for this straight-mess express? Oh, yes, there is.

GOV. SARAH PALIN, US VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Our family knows that the best way to help small business is to take less from them and leave more for them so that they can expand and jobs can then be created. That’s exactly what we’re going to do in a Palin and McCain administration.

ESCOBAR: So meet the Palin-McCain ticket. John McCain is clueless about the economy, he poses as a maverick surrounded by lobbyists, and he believes Spain may be somewhere in Latin America. Thank God for Sarah Palin. At least she can—.

PALIN: —see Russia from my house.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.