You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Is Now The Time To Be Talking About Keating?

So the Obama campaign is now playing the Keating card--launching a website,, that features a 13-minute documentary on McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal. I'm not a fan of this move.

I don't doubt that the Keating Five is a legitimate issue for Obama to raise. First, as Ben Smith notes, "the story of McCain and Keating is not guilt by association; it's guilt by guilt." Second, anything that highlights McCain's zeal for deregulation of the financial sector--as his going to bat for Keating's S&L certainly did--is obviously relevant in the current political climate. But I question the timing of Obama playing the Keating card, coming immediately on the heels of the McCain campaign's decision to make Bill Ayers an issue.

On a day when the Dow has dipped below 10,000 for the first time in four years, Obama has a real opportunity to take McCain's Ayers gambit and use it as yet another example of McCain being out of touch. Obama could cut one of those one- or two-minute ads that show him speaking directly to the camera and saying something like, "On a day when we appear to be teetering on the brink of a global recession and people are worried about their economic futures, John McCain wants to 'turn the page' and talk about the 40-year-old actions of a man whom I barely know and whose actions I've deemed despicable. . ." and then pivot to a discussion of his economic plan. Such an ad would reenforce the thing that's most distinguished Obama from McCain during the financial crisis: Obama's sober, serious side. Why not continue to play that up?

Instead, the Obama campaign decided to bring up Keating--which, while a legitimate issue, runs the risk of being interpreted as a case of tit for tat: I'll see your Ayers and raise you a Keating. That's the way it was cast on NPR this morning (after a mention of the day's top story about our impending financial ruin). And at a time when voters are freaking out about losing their life savings, the candidate who makes a point of not playing politics--or at least of seeming not to play politics--is the candidate who's making the smart political play. Obama's made a lot of smart political plays up to this point; I'm surprised he didn't make this one.

--Jason Zengerle