Peeks Into the Diaries of the Candidates and Hank Paulson
By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers
October 7, 2008
Don't ask me how many palms I had to grease or how I gained access to
certain locked drawers, but over the weekend I was able to peek into the
personal journals of the four major candidates, along with the diary of
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Here are some juicy excerpts, which
provide some insight into their states of mind.
INSIDE JOHN McCAIN'S DIARY
I feel like I'm in quicksand, and no matter which way I move, I'm just
dragged down deeper. Rove and Schmidt warned me many months ago where we
were headed, and about the likely upward trajectory of Obama down the
stretch, but we hoped we could pull off a miracle. "POW war hero,"
"straight talker," "maverick" -- I thought those would make up for the
age thing, Bush's unpopularity, the negative feelings so many voters
have for anything Republican.
But that strategy clearly isn't working, especially so once the
financial system swirled down the toilet and the jobless rate kept
rising and the credit pond went dry; I risked it all trying to arrange a
financial bailout the public could accept, but I just wound up looking
inept and it was too late anyway. The public blamed the Republicans for
the economic mess, as usual. And even though I tried distancing myself
from Bush policies, that didn't work either since all my votes were on
the record supporting those same policies.
Naming Sarah nearly turned the campaign around. But, since we really
didn't vet her, we had no idea of the extent of the scandal-baggage she
was bringing with her (which could still blow up in our faces between
now and Election Day) and no idea she wouldn't hold up to scrutiny and
tough questioning by the press. Still, even with her negatives, she's
the best thing my campaign has going for it. Nothing like some fresh
energy, and I just love being in her company. Raises my spirits, if you
get my drift.
We had to keep her from being sandbagged by tough questions in the
debate with Biden, so we prepped her not to answer those she didn't like
and to fill up her response time with the spin points we had rehearsed.
She did just fine. She stopped the bleeding, which was more than we
could have hoped for. Still, not even half of the voters polled after
her performance thought she was qualified to be president, if need be,
whereas Biden got nearly 80%. The pundits are actually questioning my
judgment in naming her to the ticket. A-holes! (Speaking of "if need
be," there are more clamors for me to release my full medical records.
We'll try to drag it out past Election Day.)
So, what do we do, what can we do, in the final three weeks of the
campaign? The public just isn't buying me and what I'm selling, so we
have to go back to the only weapon we have that might possibly work:
trashing Obama. Try to get the attention off me, and the tanking
economy, and put it on him. Toss a whole lot of mud at him and see if
any of it sticks. Raise so many doubts about him that maybe the voters
will wonder there's fire underneath all that smoke and back away from
him. That way, maybe we can shave away some of his lead in the big
toss-up states, and let Rove's boys do the rest. Negative ads, dirty
tricks, playing around with the numbers, etc. I never thought it would
come to this -- I really hoped I could run win by running a positive,
ethical campaign -- but I've come this far, no going back now. Not if I
want to be president in the last bite at the apple I've got left. Let's
just hope the American voters are as dumb as we think they are. If not,
INSIDE BARACK OBAMA'S DIARY
Things are looking up. We've got lots of money, many thousands of
energized volunteers, and we've registered so many new voters. With all
that, I know I should be optimistic but I feel like Charlie Brown,
waiting for Lucy to yank away the football again just before I get a
chance to kick it. Yeah, I know the polls are moving in our direction,
finally! But we Democratic candidates have been fooled by
electoral-victory mirages before.
So much could happen between now and Election Day, and between November
4 and Inauguration Day. Cheney and Rove still have months in which to do
their mischief. I think there will be October Suprises and November
Surprises and December Surprises and January Surprises. What will they
be? We just don't know, and sometimes they're pretty good at keeping
secrets; we were totally flummoxed by Sarah Palin's nomination, for
Speaking of which, John's picking her was, tactically speaking, a stroke
of genius. Totally altered the race and moved public scrutiny away from
himself. Unfortunately for him, he was forced to choose her in August.
She wore well for a couple of weeks, especially for their red-meat base,
but then the middle-range voters didn't necessarily like what they saw,
and, given the amount of time for the press and bloggers to vet her, her
Alaska scandals and her tendency to run roughshod over the rules and
abuse her office began to catch up with her. Her policy knowledge and
political weaknesses were especially noticeable when measured against
Joe Biden, who generates public confidence as fully presidential,
whereas she makes too many voters nervous, since she comes across as
little more than a small-town mayor playing way out of her league.
Well, the Republicans have run out of anything positive to run on, so
Michelle and I had better brace ourselves for what we basketball players
call "garbage time." Except this will be real garbage: Pastor Wright,
Bill Ayers ("palling around with terrorists"), unpatriotic ("waving the
white flag of surrender"), a "secret Muslim," an "uppity" or "angry
black man," and whatever other race-card and irrelevant nonsense they
can come up with.
Can't quite figure out how calling me "unpatriotic" for trying to end
the war in Iraq is going to play since nearly 70% of the American
population thinks going into Iraq was a bad mistake and it's time to get
our combat troops out of there. Do they really want to accuse most
American voters of being "unpatriotic," of "waving the white flag of
surrender," by urging a 16-month redeployment of our forces from Iraq?
Two more debates to go with McCain. He's becoming more unhinged by the
day, consumed by rage and frustration and a growing sense that the
American voters are not going to permit him to fulfill his one driving
ambition in life. So, having nothing to lose, he may pull out all the
stops in the debates, just go ballistic, spreading all sorts of lies,
making all sorts of promises, spouting all sorts of nonsense, something,
anything, to try to change the dynamic and momentum.
I just hope I can keep my cool, and I hope he can't keep his, so that
more ordinary Americans will be able to see what a good many Senators
long ago saw in him: a dangerous, reckless, hyper-ambitious and largely
ineffectual grandstander in the old style. And I just hope the voters
are able to wade through the partisan slime and muck being thrown our
way, and see it for what it is: last-minute desperation tactics.
INSIDE SARAH PALIN'S DIARY
I'm really scared but I've still got to put on the game face like I know
what I'm doing all this 24-hours-a-day politics in Washington is way
beyond me the small-time Alaskan political world I live in can't really
prepare anybody certainly not me for the national and international
stage but I thought I did pretty well in the debate and I was so proud
of myself for getting Biden to let me use his name "Joe" since I'd been
rehearsing that "say it ain't so, Joe" line for days the pundits had a
field day with the fact that I didn't answer t hose dumb questions the
moderator posed but chose to get my set of facts out there but that's OK
the public won't care really they just love me for who I am "doggone it"
"you betcha" i just love delivering those lines they drive the elite
East Coasters crazy!
But I can't let any of my inner doubts surface i've got to keep plugging
away for McCain and for myself got to resurrect my image as a strong
resourceful conservative politician since McCain will be out of the
picture by 2012 especially if we lose the election but he's also a
really old man (one who's constantly staring at my ass, thank you very
much!) and I can be the one to lead the party into a new age and back to
popularity I can't wait to run next time and wipe the smirks off their
faces those pointy-headed terrorist-aiding traitorous communist pinko
liberals you know who they are I'm just so excited to reach lots of
people who seem to love and adore me and who will follow my lead God
help me I really get off on that power now if we can just somehow swim
through the legal crap in Alaska the various abuse-of-power
investigations into Todd and I possibly breaking the law in trying to
get my sister's ex-husband fired and other officials fired because they
wouldn't go along with my requests maybe some IRS problems as well maybe
my "alleged" adulterous affair with Brad also if we can just keep the
lid on all this until after Election Day thank you mainstream media
maybe it'll all go away bring back Ronald Reagan God bless America.
INSIDE JOE BIDEN'S DIARY
I knew the minute I stepped on the primary debate stage with Barack and
Hillary that I was never going to be President. So I could loosen up and
be myself, and, surprise!, voters seemed to like me more that way,
despite (or who knows, maybe because of) my motor-mouth gaffes.
Obviously, I impressed Barack or he never would have chosen me as his
I think he's a bit wet-behind-the-ears -- compared to me, he's got the
political and international experience of a gnat -- but being his Veep
is the only way I'll ever get to the White House and I'm glad he chose
me to sit shotgun.
God, I love politics and campaigning is such great fun. So far, the
highlight of the campaign for me was "debating" Sarah Palin. I put that
word in quote marks because, obviously, she didn't come there to debate
ideas. She and John don't have ideas, at least none that the majority of
the public agrees with or wants to hear. She came with her note-card
talking points and made sure to get them all in, and simply ignored the
questions posed by the moderator. And what was it with Gwen Ifill? She
seemed in even more of a speed-rush than Palin, almost as if the idea of
swapping ideas on a hot-button issue for five minutes would have been
boring to the viewers. Damn it, that's why they tuned in!
My staff and I rehearsed and rehearsed so that I would never come across
as condescending or patronizing to the moron standing opposite me. I
think I carried it off, at least verbally; I couldn't help myself from
broadly grinning at her more absurd locutions and positions (expand
beyond Cheney's power-grab as Vice President? Did that one come out of
Darth's behind?) and spin-point attacks. She's an ignorant whacko, to be
sure, but she knows how to throw the elbow and the Republican base eats
her up. I'd love to see her debate Ross Perot, that would be a hoot.
INSIDE HANK PAULSON'S DIARY
What a roller-coaster ride! As it turns out, we got what we wanted: the
$700 billion bailout fund, but it came at quite a price. True, the
potential catastrophe is real -- becoming worse by the day, with a
worldwide depression not out of the realm of possibility -- but lots of
economists and pundits saw the housing meltdown, credit squeeze and
derivatives disaster coming long ago and yet the politicians, especially
we Republicans, did nothing. They were like me, true believers in the
glories of the unregulated free market, terrified that by proposing
tight government regulation, we'd kill the goose that was laying all
those golden eggs. We all were in a major state of denial. We knew that
the economic good times were resting on flimsy foundations and
eventually would come crashing down, but we didn't want to prepare for
that disaster. We all hoped the catastrophe would happen on someone
else's watch. Here and abroad, we movers and shakers were so
comfortable, so deluded by greed, we just wanted the free ride to go on
forever, so we looked away.
The consequence of waiting too long is that the whole capitalist
financial system may come tumbling down on our heads, along with our
social/political structure as we know it. On the other hand, when a
disaster strikes, there's opportunity for massive political and economic
changes that benefit those that can take advantage. (Naomi Klein in her
"Shock Doctrine" book calls it "disaster capitalism," but I call it an
"opportunity.") We're not even very subtle about it with this bailout.
Those victimized by the various financial schemes will get little more
than some trickle-down, if they're lucky. But they don't really have a
viable set of leaders or way of protesting. I love this system!
Yes, we suffered an embarrassing defeat when the hot-under-the-collar
Republicans in the House turned down our bill, but we turned it around
four days later. However, the damage was done, not the least being that
the huge fissures in the Republican party were brought to the surface,
and none of our actions reflected well on our candidate and party. As a
result of that and his own ineffective grandstanding, McCain is tanking
steadily in the polls.
The saving grace is that when Obama takes over in January, he's going to
have to deal with the two biggest messes in modern American history,
courtesy of us Republicans: the Iraq quagmire and a thoroughly depressed
economy. There's no way Obama can do anything more than simply tread
water in that roiling ocean. Sorry, Barack. Hee, hee, hee. He won't have
any money to implement his liberal reforms and initiatives, so the
public will get fed up with him and the Democrat party early and return
Republicans to power in 2010 in Congress and 2012 in the White House.
I don't envy Obama's Herculean tasks. And he won't be able to talk his
way out of any of those messes with high-flown oratory. He's stuck in
our Republican molasses. For the sake of the country, I hope he can keep
the situation relatively stable and that things won't get much worse, or
else the anger and hopelessness may well spill over into calls for
revolution. FDR had to face many of the same problems in the 1930s, but
I don't think Obama has the experience and political smarts to be
...We've got two immediate problems to deal with in the bailout:
Number One: While we are getting our rescue infrastructure up and
running, the rescue operation won't really kick in for another couple of
months; the cash (and then freed-up credit) won't even start flowing
until next year. During that lag-time, the credit squeeze will get
worse, not better. Already two of our largest states, California and
Massachusetts, have announced that they need many billions of dollars in
bridge loans just to get by until anticipated tax revenues arrive next
year. And there are a dozen other states lined up right behind those
Number Two: We really don't know if our plan will work. What if
we buy up all this toxic paper (assuming they want us to take it off
their hands) and we pay the wrong price and lose most of it or can't
unload it to buyers? It's mainly my plan and even I'm not sure it will
do what we hope it will do. That's what keeps me up at night. Figure of
speech. I've got mine, Jack, and I sleep just fine.
We made all sorts of concessions to get the damn bill passed, including
strong regulation of the financial markets, and had to add $150 billion
of this "Monopoly" money for local pork projects to buy the votes we
needed. We're in hock up to our eyeballs and beyond. Who knows? The
economic situation may get so desperate, just to survive we may wind up
selling key parts of the American economy to the Chinese. As Tiny Tim
would have said: "God help us, everyone."
Copyright 2008, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D., has taught
government & international relations at universities in California and
Washington, worked as a writer/editor at the San Francisco Chronicle for two
decades, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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