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Pundits & Editorials

Bailout debate thrusts Barney Frank into the limelight, and Ted Stevens 'blames his wife' in his corruption trial. Plus: undoing Iraq's 'political knot.'

John McCain's "boisterous intervention -- and particularly his grandstanding on the debate -- was less a presidential act than the tactical ploy of a man worried that his chances of becoming president might be slipping away," E.J. Dionne Jr. scoffs.

• "McCain succeeded in focusing attention on himself, but not necessarily in a good way," Eugene Robinson remarks. "Voters may see this not as an illustration of brave leadership but as another example of McCain's 'ready, fire, aim' approach to dealing with any crisis."


• Meanwhile, Kimberley Strassel senses that what voters have seen from McCain "is alternating anger and vagueness, capped this week by an impulsive call to delay the first presidential debate. He wants to portray all this as rising above politics. It could look instead as though he's trying to escape it."

John Mercurio quips that the "McCain campaign is increasingly dedicating its time, and the country's, to a curious series of political stunts designed to... well, I'm not entirely sure what they're designed to do. Mostly, it just depends on the day."

• "Those who thought exhausted Republicans were out of strategy, and would not be hungry and resourceful, were wrong," Peggy Noonan asserts. "You can see this in the sudden suspension of the campaign, but you can also see it in Mr. McCain's embrace of an attitudinal populism."


• "What disappoints" David Brooks "about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument. I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain's worldview is different." But the Arizona senator has failed to make "that sort of all-encompassing argument."

• On the contrary, National Review's Byron York writes in The Hill, that McCain has done a "brilliant job" overcoming his obstacles in the election.

• "As" the financial "crisis has made clear," Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, "has emerged as one of the most important voices in the Democratic Congress," concludes Scott Lehigh.

Joel Stein suggests Congress "do nothing," in response to the financial crisis since he "feel[s] pretty sure that letting Congress give Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson $700 billion to buy super-crappy mortgages is not the right call."


• In the Washington Times, columnist Thomas Sowell expresses outrage at the proposal introduced by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., which would extend "the bailout from the financial firms to homeowners facing mortgage foreclosures... Bailing out people who made ill-advised mortgages makes no more sense that bailing out people who lost their life savings in Las Vegas casinos," Sowell seethes.

• "It's true that we don't know for sure that the parallel" between this financial crisis and the Great Depression "is a fair one," Paul Krugman acknowledges. "Maybe we can let Wall Street implode and Main Street would escape largely unscathed. But that's not a chance we want to take."

• "The key question is whether Treasury purchases of bad loans will encourage hedge funds and other investors to dive in themselves," explains Sebastian Mallaby. "If the government starts a buying trend, its plan will work brilliantly. If it triggers a selling reaction, those trillions of dollars in private hands could swamp its efforts."

• "Sen. Ted Stevens [R-Alaska], his career and his freedom in jeopardy, did the honorable thing as he went on trial" Thursday "on corruption-related charges. He blamed his wife," Dana Milbank sarcastically recounts.

From The Editorial Boards...

The Hill observes that Democrats are "playing offense on the campaign trail," with a clear cash advantage over their Republican counterparts, while "legislatively, Democrats have been playing a bit of defense."

• Explaining that "the problems in the financial system have their roots in the housing bust," the New York Times insists that "any bailout bill must allow struggling homeowners to modify their mortgages in bankruptcy court."

• "There's no guarantee the plan outlined Thursday would work and every reason to be angry that it is necessary," acknowledges USA Today. "But the situation is too urgent to ignore." The deal being considered "is a strong bipartisan effort to stave off disaster."

• The Philadelphia Inquirer also evaluates the proposal lawmakers have drafted: "Scrutiny of the fine print is required, but the broad elements are an improvement over the no-strings proposal that the Bush administration presented to Congress a few days ago."

• The Washington Times contends that the way women, a key voting bloc for either candidate, will react to the bailout plan is crucial, since they "are the owners of about 9.1 million businesses in this country" and "moreover, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate for women rose to 5.6 percent in August."

• "It's time to dump the TV commercials, staged rallies and set-piece speeches. With less than six weeks left, voters need a serious look at" McCain "and Barack Obama under the road test reality of an unscripted debate," the San Francisco Chronicle declares.

• "If the presidential debate finally occurs in Oxford -- without 'suspension,'" the Jackson Clarion-Ledger thinks that the candidates should be asked: "What is the true cost of military operations around the world to taxpayers? And is that cost, given the additional financial constraints now being put on taxpayers, reasonable? Or justifiable?"

• "For some better news this week, turn the channel to Iraq," the Wall Street Journal suggests. "The Parliament in Baghdad just undid the biggest political knot in the country. Wednesday's deal to hold provincial elections opens the way for former insurgents and their supporters, mainly Sunni Arabs, to join the democratic process in Iraq."

• The Washington Post echoes the Journal's excitement about political progress in Iraq: "The legislation eliminates the party slate system that allowed religious authorities to dominate Iraq's previous elections, and it provides for women to hold 25 percent of seats."

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