McCain's Racist Answer?

I'll admit I didn't fully appreciate this at first, but two wiser observers in my immediate circle did, and upon review it seems pretty clear-cut.

The first question in last night's debate came from an older white gentleman named Alan Shaffer, who asked:

With the economy on the downturn and retired and older citizens and workers losing their incomes, what's the fastest, most positive solution to bail these people out of the economic ruin?

The second question came from a younger black gentleman name Oliver Clark, who asked:

Well, Senators, through this economic crisis, most of the people that I know have had a difficult time. And through this bailout package, I was wondering what it is that's going to actually help those people out.

The two questions are almost identical -- in fact, it's hard to understand why Brokaw picked both of them. Notice that neither one mentioned anything about home ownership, mortgages, or anything along those lines.

In his answer to Alan, the older white guy, McCain introduced his new mortgage buyout plan like this:

You know that home values of retirees continues to decline and people are no longer able to afford their mortgage payments. As president of the United States, Alan, I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes -- at the diminished value of those homes and let people be able to make those -- be able to make those payments and stay in their homes. (my emphasis)

McCain here is saying that people like Alan are at risk of losing their homes through no fault of their own, but simply because of the devaluation of their property, and the decline in the value of their investments.

McCain likewise turned young black Oliver's question toward the new mortgage buyout proposal, but like this:

Well, thank you, Oliver, and that's an excellent question... one of the real catalysts, really the match that lit this fire was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I'll bet you, you may never even have heard of them before this crisis. But you know, they're the ones that, with the encouragement of Sen. Obama and his cronies and his friends in Washington, that went out and made all these risky loans, gave them to people that could never afford to pay back.... we're going to have to go out into the housing market and we're going to have to buy up these bad loans and we're going to have to stabilize home values, and that way, Americans, like Alan, can realize the American dream and stay in their home. (my emphases)

Here, McCain is using the currently fashionable right-wing talking point that the entire crisis stems from loans made to poor, primarily minority home buyers who "could never afford to pay back" those loans in the first place -- who have now made innocent victims of people like Alan and his friends, who "are no longer able to afford" their payments.

It's worth mentioning that McCain appears to be looking directly at Oliver both when he says "you may never have heard of" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and when he refers to "Americans, like Alan" trying to stay in their homes.

It certainly seems as though McCain made grossly different assumptions about the two questioners, casting the black guy and his friends as the problem, and the white guy and his friends as the victims. And again, there is little or nothing in the questions themselves about the men's own housing situations.

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