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Lehman Brothers Call McCain's Bluff: More Than Lipstick Needed to Mask the Meltdown 

Sorry, Phil Gramm, but this time we're not imagining it

Wednesday, Sep 17 2008
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Play even a low-stakes game of Texas Hold ’em any night at the Bicycle Club or Commerce Casino and you can be sure that within an hour or so someone will predict your coming destruction by the feared, so-called “poker gods.” It goes like this. You tempt the fates and ignore the odds by successfully bluffing with a seven-deuce, forcing your rival to muck top pair. Then you blatantly buy a big pot, raising all-in while holding only rags. It’s fold-a-rama to you and you can’t help but flash open your bluff with a snickering sneer, basically telling the rest of the table they’re a bunch of suckers.

But then stand back. The all-seeing poker gods — real sticklers for rigidly adhering to the cold percentages — will be the ones calling your next hand and visiting upon you a sulphuric wrath. You look at your next pair of hole cards, and there they are. The Weapons of Mass Destruction. American Airlines. Pocket Rockets. A pair of aces, baby. Fireworks burst behind your eyes, and you try not to tap-dance on the table, as you mentally tote up your next take. But then the doofus kid with a baseball cap and dark glasses sitting next to you calls your monster raise, plays his trash hand, flops a straight, cracks your aces and grinds you — bankrupted and humiliated — into the cold, green felt. You swear you hear a faint snickering from the Great Beyond, but you write that off to a dizzying spike in blood pressure.

Back in the ’60s we simply called it bad karma.

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And so it has come to pass with John McCain and Sarah Palin. They went one bluff too far — crudely and rudely jabbing their fingers into the eyes of fate, and then sticking them way down the throats of the American people. Don’t believe your lying eyes, my friends, this gorgeous gal could run 50 states the size of Alaska. Worried about your job or your mortgage? Well, not to fret. Just step right in and take a look at this bearded pig with lipstick. Concerned about health care — or the lack of it? Well, my friends, better to think about Obama’s legion of horny kindergartners.

The strategy was as transparent as it was cynical. Every day for the last two-and-a-half weeks — though it felt like a lifetime — it was a frenetic race against the clock. With only 60, 55, 50 days to go, every single day spent not talking about the war in Iraq or, gasp, the economy, was a victory for John McCain.

 
So you tell me, was it the campaign gods, or just the more mundane Lehman Brothers, or perhaps just plain bad luck, but McBluff has not only been called but called out. And, sorry, Phil Gramm, but this time we’re not imagining it. Lehman goes bust. Merrill Lynch sells out. Freddie and Fannie had to be nationalized. WaMu teeters. Wall Street plummets down a black hole. And the entire global economy braces for a prolonged plunge. Somehow I just don’t think that the national conversation is going to turn back to the merits or demerits of porcine makeup. Much more likely, as we damn well should have been doing for sometime now, I think we’re going to be talking about how the corporate-cozy deregulatory policies of Republican rule directly contributed to the financial debacle unfolding around us. (The only silver lining in a McCain presidency — something I would consider miraculous at this juncture — is that he would have at his right hand someone accustomed to living half the year in the frozen, barren darkness ... more or less the financial environment that can be anticipated for some years to come.)

In the next six weeks until November 4, we’re really going to be able to separate the living from the brain-dead. With 80 percent of the American people already believing the country was on the wrong track before Black Monday, just how zoned-out will you have to be to believe that electing McCain is going to “shake up” the Washington establishment, of which he has been a loyal soldier and defender? It’s one thing for those who, in the abstract, claim they have no fear of Palin running the country. It will be quite another for them to imagine entrusting her and hubby Todd with the future of their battered 401(k)s.

The downside to all this, of course, is that it’s not just McCain and the GOP (yes, Virginia, he is a Republican) who have just lost all their chips. It’s likely that the deregulatory corporate-sweetheart policies of the Reagan-Bush-Bush era, now finally coming home to roost, will also crush millions of other modest nest eggs. It’s one helluva price to pay to watch these jokers finally get their comeuppance.

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