On second thought, maybe McCain isn’t so different from Clinton and Obama on housing

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Upon reading the same speech that led the NYT to declare that John McCain had “draw[n] a sharp distinction between himself and the two Democratic presidential candidates” (which I wrote about Wednesday), James Pethokoukis of U.S. News came to the near opposite conclusion:

Based on that speech, I think it is pretty easy to see how McCain could/would go along with something remarkably similar to the bailout plan being offered in the House by Barney Frank. The Frank plan doesn’t make everyone whole or hit some cosmic reset button. It applies only to owner-occupied homes, and lenders would have to accept a write-down of the principal of the loan. Plus, homeowners may have to fork over some share of the future appreciation of the home to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in order to have an existing bank loan replaced by one from Uncle Sammy.

And with the language of the speech, McCain made it clear that he won’t let small-government, free-market ideology get in the way of his support of government action that he deems necessary. This is also exactly the thing that one influential conservative economic activist told me he was praying that McCain wouldn’t do because it further fuzzed the differences between him and Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on spending—an issue many GOP-ers think helped cost them the 2006 congressional election.

Now I do think that anybody who believes that spending is what cost the GOP the 2006 election has a pretty deluded view of the American electorate. But the dubious view-from-the-right that McCain isn’t really one of them on economic issues is probably closer to the truth than the view-from-the-left that he’s just the reincarnation of George Bush. Scratch that. He may well be the reincarnation of George Bush on economic policy. But H.W., not W.