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« FL 16: Mahoney (D) +7 | Blog Home Page | PA 11: Barletta (R) +9 »

Strategy Memo: Oversight Overlooked

Good Wednesday morning. We can't tell if the collapse of the New York Mets, version 2.008, is entirely complete or if they have more heartbreak to give in the remaining two weeks of the season. But we can tell when they're suddenly half a game back of the Philadelphia Phillies. Here's what Washington is watching today:

-- The Senate is back on the Defense Authorization bill today, one of the three key pieces of legislation Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is intent on passing before the session expires in a few weeks. The House will vote on new gun regulations for Washington, D.C. President Bush is taking meetings at the White House, including General David Petraeus and Panama President Martin Torrijos Espino. Tonight, he hosts Muslim leaders and ambassadors for a Ramadan dinner.

-- The economic crisis on Wall Street continues as the Federal Reserve took one of the most dramatic steps in its history in acquiring an 80% stake in insurance company AIG in exchange for an $85 billion loan. The company's collapse would have caused reverberations throughout the world economy, the New York Times reports, and the government bailout, engineered by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed chair Ben Bernanke, prevented that, winning backing from House and Senate leaders.

-- The House is moving quickly to investigate just what went wrong and started the market meltdown, Politico's Mike Allen reports, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi orders hearings and testimony from Bush administration officials. House Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman will call a series of meetings to order featuring Paulson and other administration officials as well as Richard Fuld, who headed Lehman Brothers before it collapsed over the weekend.

-- On the presidential trail, Barack Obama spent yesterday describing how he would improve oversight and enforcement on Wall Street while overhauling regulation rules, Bloomberg's Fitzgerald and Stern write. John McCain offered his own reforms as the deregulator takes a second look at new regulations. McCain also attacked outsized pay packages for corporate executives, a year after opposing a measure that would have given shareholders at least some say in excessive compensation cases.

-- But for McCain, talking about the economy has proven a challenge. An economy that had strong fundamentals on Monday became "a total crisis" by Tuesday, the Times' Michael Cooper writes, reflecting a dramatic reversal of position on an issue he himself has admitted many times he doesn't understand well. McCain has settled back into his argument that he is most experienced to handle the crisis, pointing to his years as chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, but it hasn't been an easy sell; yesterday, economic adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin seemed to suggest that McCain had helped to create the BlackBerry.

-- Meanwhile, Obama is leaping on the crisis as well, launching a two minute ad featuring the candidate speaking directly to the camera. "This isn't just a string of bad luck. The truth is that while you've been living up to your responsibilities Washington has not. That's why we need change. Real change," Obama says (Full script at The Page). The balance between recognition of the problem without pessimism and the promise of recovery in the future is one Obama seems to have found, while McCain still searches it out.

-- Think you've seen a lot of former HP executive Carly Fiorina lately? Well, you won't anymore. The chair of the RNC's Victory Program will be encouraged to decline future media requests after telling a St. Louis radio station and MSNBC that neither John McCain nor Sarah Palin (And, for that matter, Obama or Joe Biden) were qualified to run a corporation, but that's not what they're running for. Nonetheless, CNN reports, McCain was "furious," per a source, and Fiorina will take a much lower profile as a result.

-- But not all news is bad for McCain. For example, he's found great ways to make the $84 million he earned with public financing reach even farther than many thought possible. In fact, when McCain got his check, it was worth close to $200 million thanks to loopholes in the campaign finance system that allow the Republican National Committee to seriously chime in, Washington Post's Matthew Mosk writes. The once-tremendous fundraising edge Obama was supposed to enjoy is all but gone.

-- Trip Of The Day: Sarah Palin may not be the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as Biden is, but she can still meet world leaders. The Wall Street Journal reports McCain will introduce his running mate to world leaders as the U.N. General Assembly opens in New York next week. The Republicans will head to New York on Tuesday, the same day President Bush will address the body.

-- Today On The Trail: McCain started his day with an interview on Good Morning America, and later he and Palin have a joint town hall meeting slated for Grand Rapids, Michigan. Obama is in Elko, Nevada for a rally, followed by a similar event at a Las Vegas baseball stadium. Joe Biden has events scheduled for Maumee and Wooster, Ohio.