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John McCain singles out a fellow Republican for blame in Wall Street meltdown

September 18, 2008 | 11:37 am

Faced with a complex, bewildering and downright scary crisis -- i.e., the turmoil now afflicting Wall Street -- politicians often find it convenient to identify a specific villain whom they can thrash for effect. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox came under attack from Republican presidential nominee John McCain

For Democrats, that target almost always is President Bush (it goes with the turf; the buck does stop in his office). But even for self-proclaimed maverick John McCain, it would be impolitic -- as the Republican presidential nominee -- to call out the Republican currently residing in the White House.

So McCain, speaking today in Iowa, singled out a different federal official: the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

His critique was harsh: "In my view," he said, the SEC chairman "has betrayed the public trust" by failing to adequately regulate America's high financiers, McCain said.

And his remedy was direct: "If I was president today, I would fire him."

McCain did note that the chairman is a presidential appointee, though he avoided mentioning the particular president who put in office the fellow he so disdains. But other omissions were more telling.

Aside from not naming the chairman -- Chris Cox (above) -- McCain neglected to tell his cheering audience that this benighted public servant brought a sterling, and solidly Republican, resume to his job when he assumed it in August 2005. Cox was a one-time legal aide in Ronald Reagan's White House who, staring in 1989, represented an affluent House district in California for many years (its core was Newport Beach). In Congress, he was a major player in formulating GOP policy, including a generally hands-off regulatory approach to business that McCain also advocated.

Here's more on Cox's background: After whisking through the University of Southern California in three years, he earned both a master's in business administration and a law degree from Harvard. While still in the House, the Almanac of American Politics wrote that his "intellect and range of interests are impressive."

Cox was confirmed for the SEC post on a voice vote -- with nary an objection heard -- by the Senate. The chamber's members included McCain and Barack Obama (though we do not know whether either were on the floor at this moment).

No reaction yet from Cox to McCain's attack on him. But boy, wouldn't we love to know who he ends up voting for later this year (maybe he'll pass on the presidential part of his ballot).

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Bloomberg News

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