Not many people have come out of today's vote against the Wall Street bail-out plan in the USA with their reputations enhanced, but some have come out in a worse state than others.
There are some fairly obvious losers. Firstly, and most importantly, is the whole financial system in the USA, and the world as a whole. Banks and shares are likely to continue to tumble over the next few days and weeks, putting more financial institutions at risk.
And that's having a knock-on effect across the whole economy. Although the debate on the bail-out plan has often been characterised as one of Wall Street v Main Street, the reality is that businesses on Main Street are finding it difficult get loans to help their businesses expand, while even getting a loan to buy a car or a new fridge is tough. The problems on Wall Street are having a direct impact on Main Street.
But on a political level, there are also several losers. President Bush, for instance, is discovering the true meaning of 'lame duck'. I can think of no comparable instance in recent times of a President putting a package before the House of Representatives which he deemed vital for the economic future of the United States and seeing it shot down in flames. Similarly, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, whose plan it was, has had his reputation battered.
Questions also have to be asked about the Democratic leadership in the House of Representatives. Did they possibly over-estimate the support among their own party for the bail-out package?
But the biggest loser of this whole affair has to be John McCain. If you're a presidential candidate who suspends his campaign to get a financial bail-out package through Congress, then the least you can do is ensure that your own party is onside. Indeed, when your supporters are saying that you've been instrumental in getting the Republicans in the House of Representative on board, you'd better make damn sure they are.
This quote from The Guardian says it all:
After last week's drama , which saw the deal unravelling with McCain's arrival in Washington on Thursday, the Republican has been on the defensive against charges that he tried to exploit the crisis for political gain. He has also been trying to distance himself from his record in the Senate as a supporter of deregulation of the financial industry.
His camp pushed back hard against those charges yesterday, with Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, telling Fox TV that McCain had been crucial in engaging House Republicans on the bail-out. "I think it was decisive in regards to the house getting involved," said Graham.
So what was the result? MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS of McCain's own party in the House of Representatives refused to back the bail-out plan today. Well done, John. Great leadership. Why should anyone vote for you when you can't even persuade 2 out of 3 of your own party's legislators to back your position?
That leaves Barack Obama as the only real winner of this whole fiasco. In truth, he hasn't been doing a great deal on the financial bail-out and has left most of the negotiations to others. But when your main rival has had such a disastrous impact on the whole process and has failed utterly to have any positive impact on events, you can just sit back and bask in the sunshine.
The past week has demonstrated McCain's utter unsuitability to do the top job. And I only hope for America's sake, and the world's, that enough people in the USA recognise that fact between now and November 4.
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