Machiavellian Press Management?

Warning: This post contains rank speculation going beyond the available facts: Was Phil Gramm’s “mental recession” remark a deliberate ploy to allow the McCain campaign to sever its close relationship with man who had become a liability as a lobbyist, a representative of rapacious global capitalism, and, with his wife, a major force in the deregulation of American economic life that spawned the home loan crisis?

I allow myself about one conspiracy speculation a month. This is one of them. Stop reading now if you believe being “reality-based” requires sticking entirely to known facts.

Going back to summer 2007, the John McCain Campaign has had a “National Leadership Team.” At is apex as National Campaign Chairman is Robert Mosbacher of Texas, former Secretary of Commerce. Just below him (and you can see this on the McCain website even today) in the hierarchy were just two “National Campaign General Co-Chairs,” both also from Texas: Tom Loeffler and Phil Gramm.

Loeffler was forced off the campaign in mid-May after it was revealed that he and his firm had taken $15 million from Saudi Arabia to lobby the American government, specifically including Senator John McCain.

As of last week, the MSM was beginning to focus on Gramm’s unsavory activities on behalf of UBS, and he and his wife were beginning to receive negative attention for their roles in undoing regulations that might otherwise have protected Americans against some of the recent economic troubles. See here. Gramm’s foreign employer, UBS, has lost 70% of shareholder value since he joined and is under investigation by even the Bush Justice Department for advising Americans to illegal evade taxes by stashing money in offshore account. (For RBC pith on Gramm, see here and here.) David Corn had a comprehensive indictment including Gramm’s responsibility for deregulating Collateralized Debt Obligations as well as the Enron loophole, here.

So here’s the Machiavellian speculation: Phill Gramm’s unpolitic remarks to the Washington Times editorial board about the “mental recession” were entirely premeditated, designed to give the Campaign an excuse to sever its connection with him, without opening up the campaign to the story line that it is totally a creature of the corrupt monied interests. This explains why John McCain was so ready to “nominate” him as “Ambassador to Belarus”–it was all part of the plan.

Bonus Question: How did the McCain campaign get the entire press corps to refer to Gramm as an “economics advisor” rather than “National Campaign General Co-Chair”?

Return from Machiavellian Reverie: Ploy or not, the fact remains that two out of two original National Campaign General Co-Chairs are unsavory characters who the campaign hopes are no longer associated with it, and the national press corps has treated this just as a matter of an errant advisor stepping on the message — a purely tactical horse-race story rather than a window on who the McCain crowd is.