This week John McCain, completely out of his element with respect to developments on Wall Street, lodged another uninformed and impetuous attack -- this time, at SEC Chairman Christopher Cox.
"The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public trust," McCain said. "If I were president today, I would fire him."
And he would have diminished his office by attempting to do so. Here are just two reasons why.
First, it is borderline ridiculous to lay the blame squarely at Cox's feet. Our current crisis dates back to reckless deregulation of the financial markets by the GOP-controlled Congress and its chief deregulator, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm (now McCain Campaign Chairman and presumptive Treasury Secretary), in the 1990s. Gramm's work left the SEC and others without the necessary authorities to regulate adequately existing and new markets and securities. Sure, Cox should have spoken up and done so forcefully. But the current financial crisis wasn't set in motion by Cox or his predecessors.
(Crossposted from Our Republic)
McCain's misdirected, bellicose rhetoric has drawn the ire of even America's most conservative editorial board, the Wall Street Journal, who called his statements about Cox "false," "deeply unfair," and downright "unpresidential." Ouch.
Second, if McCain hadn't shot first and asked questions later, he likely would have discovered that the president doesn't have the power to dismiss Chairman Cox. While the president does indeed nominate the chairman and other commissioners of the SEC, they, like their counterparts at the Federal Reserve Board, the National Labor Relations Board, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commission, cannot be removed by him. What an awkward conversation that would be.