John McCain yesterday tried to invoke his maverick magic to address the economic crisis, while George Bush attempted to explain the current crisis without blaming Wall Street. The financial titans of the past would have been pleased.
September 25, 2008 | web only
|Posted by Mark from The American Prospect...prospect.org |
McCain Channels Morgan
Let's consider where John McCain was when he and his staff concocted their scheme to call off Friday's debate, fly down to Washington, and resolve the nation's economic crisis through sheer force of McCain's character.
They were in the Morgan Library, on East 36th Street in Midtown Manhattan, prepping for the debate.
It was there, 101 years ago, that J.P. Morgan -- in part through the sheer force of his own character, not to mention his intellect and his economic clout -- summoned New York's other major bankers, locked the doors, and did not let them go until they sifted through the balance sheets of failing banks, decided which to bail out and which to let die, and put up the money to make it all happen. (It was 4:45 a.m. on the night in question when his fellow bankers succumbed to his pressure and Morgan finally unlocked the doors.) Thus was the Panic of 1907 abated.
For a brief time thereafter, Morgan, generally excoriated in Progressive-era America for wielding more economic power than any one man should possess, was uncharacteristically celebrated. He was the man who'd saved the economy from a depression (and having spent most of the 1890s in a depression, America did not want to go there again). But soon thereafter, the idea that one man controlled the credit flows by which the nation's economy lived or died struck Americans with renewed force, and a campaign began to establish a national central bank, under at least some governmental control, to supplant private citizen Morgan. In 1913, Morgan died, and a few months thereafter, Congress established the Federal Reserve.
Fast-forward 101 years. McCain's advisers have long argued that this election was about character, not great issues of state. It was about McCain demonstrating he was decisive and could deal across partisan divides. When the public turned its attention to the economy over the past 10 days, however, McCain began to tank in the polls. What better way to return America's wandering focus to his own leadership qualities than to become a latter-day Morgan? So he summoned the nation's political leaders to a meeting, from which they doubtless would not emerge unless they embraced the McCain Plan, whatever that might be. And woe betide Barack Obama if he declined to sign on.
McCain, it's become clear over the course of the campaign, personalizes everything. Who needs Congress, or a central bank, or a debate between the presidential candidates, when by his swooping decisiveness, his steely nerve, John McCain can ride to the economy's rescue? The only thing more Napoleonic than John McCain is John McCain imbued with the spirit of J.P. Morgan. Win or lose, he should never be allowed inside the Morgan Library again.