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The presidential election is bound to get intense in its final few weeks. Desperate marketing campaigns will take a turn for the vicious. The candidates will go for the jugular, singling out the inherent differences in each White House hopeful's policies.
However, they have more in common than the inevitable round of negative ads would seem to suggest. Friday's $700 billion cowardly bailout? They were both for it, my friend.
It certainly seemed like a noble cause a week ago. Financial markets were teetering. Something needed to be done. However, now that the market tanked on Friday following its passing -- and the overseas rumbling and tumbling that followed over the weekend -- one has to wonder if supporting the costly bailout is something that will look good on either candidate's resume.
John McCain and Barack Obama have clearly different ideologies. They aren't all that different than the Nick and Norah characters in Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist that opened over the weekend. In the movie, the two teens overcome their initial disagreements in the mad pursuit of a single goal: to decipher the cryptic underground location of a Where's Fluffy concert. The presidential wannabes are united, unwillingly perhaps, in the mad dash to get the credit markets rocking again.
The rub, of course, is that the "Wall Street greed" that both candidates seem to want to control is running amok as a direct result of the government's belly-flop into the financial markets.
You don't need to look any further than Friday's bizarre Wachovia (NYSE: WB ) love triangle for proof. Citigroup (NYSE: C ) thought it had landed a sweet deal to acquire the troubled company's banking operations for roughly $2 billion in stock, with Federal Reserve support as the cherry on top.
A no-brainer? Not so fast. Citigroup isn't going down quietly. It is arguing that it had exclusivity to steal Wachovia's banks. How insane is that? How sick is it that the government is such a lousy matchmaker that it's settling for less in its lousy hookups? This isn't too far from the JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) deal where Bear Stearns got bailed out at $2 a share, before shareowners clamored for JPMorgan to up its offer fivefold.
Forcing the government to play Cupid as a way out of this mess is a dreadful mistake. It's no Chuck Woolery. It's more chuck and wool. In Wells Fargo, you have free markets at play. In Citigroup, you have the failure of regulators stepping in with arranged weddings and the arrogant greed it fuels. Do McCain and Obama realize what they are empowering? Leave the matchmaking to Hollywood. At least there it's just 90 minutes and a pricey tub of popcorn that gets squandered.
Where's Fluffy? Everywhere, unfortunately.
Some of Friday's related headlines: