The Raines/Johnson silver bullet?

THE RAINES/JOHNSON SILVER BULLET?…. John McCain and his campaign seem to think they have a new trump card to play against Obama — he’s been associated with Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson, both of whom are former Fannie Mae executives. The connections are the subject of two new McCain campaign TV ads, and I was just watching an event in Minnesota where McCain seemed to find the subject of Obama’s Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ties utterly fascinating.

Like most of McCain’s attacks, I get the sense he hasn’t thought this one through.

First, McCain insists that Raines is an advisor to the Obama campaign. As we discussed earlier, McCain simply isn’t telling the truth.

Second, if getting advice from officials at troubled financial institutions is a sign of bad judgment, McCain way want to explain why two of his top advisors include John Thain, from Merrill Lynch, and Martin Feldstein, who serves on AIG’s board of directors.

Third, and most importantly, all McCain’s attacks do is offer people like me a chance to remind folks about his own connections to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

More than Mr. Obama, Mr. McCain’s circle of advisers and contributors includes current and former lobbyists or directors for the companies, although since July he has called for a ban on any lobbying by the two firms.

Among the companies’ past advocates are Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, Rick Davis, a longtime lobbyist; Mr. McCain’s confidant and adviser Charlie Black, whose firm worked for Freddie Mac for several years ending in 2005, and the deputy campaign finance chairman, Wayne L. Berman, a vice president for Ogilvy Worldwide and a former Fannie Mae lobbyist.

Mr. Davis previously was head of the Homeownership Alliance, a coalition of banks and housing industry interests led by Fannie and Freddie to stave off regulations.

I just don’t understand what McCain is thinking here; he seems to assume that his comments won’t receive any scrutiny at all.

He is, without a hint of shame, attacking Obama for having connections with two former Fannie Mae executives. At the same time, one of McCain’s top policy advisors, Charlie Black, was lobbyist for Freddie Mac for 10 years, while his campaign manager, Rick Davis, lobbied to help Fannie and Freddie steer clear of additional federal regulations (which, obviously, would have been pretty helpful in retrospect).

But wait, there’s more. Tom Loeffler, who served as McCain’s campaign co-chairman, also lobbied for Fannie Mae. Aquiles Suarez, a McCain economic advisor, was a Fannie Mae executive. Dan Crippen, a McCain advisor who helped craft the campaign’s health-care policy, lobbied for Fannie Mae (and Merrill Lynch). Arthur B. Culvahouse, who helped lead McCain’s VP search committee, also lobbied for Fannie Mae. In all, McCain has 19 people who are either advisors or fundraisers who lobbied for either Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

And voters are supposed to be outraged because of Obama’s connections to Franklin Raines and Jim Johnson? Why would McCain even start on this subject at all, making the argument that ties to Fannie/Freddie are scandalous, given his own associations?

It seems the underlying point to just about every McCain argument is that voters won’t pay attention to the details. He may be right, but it seems like an incredibly dangerous strategy for a candidate to take.