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Chris Cox gets backing from key John McCain ally

As of now -- and more than likely through the election -- it's hard to argue that in a purely political sense, John McCain was astute in passing on (among others) the relatively obscure Rob Portman as a running mate by tapping the even-more-obscure (at the time) Sarah Palin.Christopher Cox, head of the Securities Exchange Commission, listens to President Bush dicuss the economy

True, Portman is from always-crucial Ohio and has heft on his resume -- after more than a decade as a U.S. House member, he served as President Bush's trade representative and then as his budget director.

But the universe of budget wonks hardly compares with the hockey moms and others with whom Palin struck a chord. It's impossible to imagine Portman's selection for the McCain ticket generating the type of grass-roots enthusiasm and scads of cash that the Palin pick sparked.

Portman, though, remains a prime McCain surrogate and a prime contender for a top post in a McCain administration -- secretary of the Treasury is frequently mentioned. But did he jeopardize his standing within the Republican's camp by offering some straight talk of his own over the weekend?

Portman appeared on CNN's "Late Edition" and host Wolf Blitzer asked him about one of McCain's more pointed suggestions as the Wall Street financial crisis has unfolded -- can Chris Cox (pictured with Bush), the Bush-appointed head of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Blitzer began by saying he assumed that Portman -- whose tenure in the House overlapped with Cox's time as a congressman from California -- agreed with McCain's harsh assessment that Cox had "betrayed the public's trust" by indulging lax oversight of the private financial sector.

Portman acknowledged that "some accountability ought to go to the SEC."

But then he added:

Chris Cox is a smart, competent guy. He's a former colleague of mine. I think he's doing a decent job in a very tough situation. So I do not share the fact that Chris Cox ought to go.

-- Don Frederick

Photo: EPA

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This from George F. Will, not someone you'd typically expect to be overly vocal about Republican foibles:

"Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama."


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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