McCain Economic Surrogate: We Shouldn't Fire SEC Chair

The former director of the Office of Management and Budget and one-time John McCain vice presidential hopeful Rob Portman said on Sunday that he disagreed with McCain's call to fire SEC chairman Chris Cox in the wake of horrendous financial news.

"Well, first of all," Portman said, "the SEC does have jurisdiction over the financial markets and therefore some accountability ought to go to the SEC. Chris Cox is a smart, competent guy, he's a former colleague of mine. I think he's doing a descent job in a very tough situation. I do not share the fact that Chris Cox ought to go. I do think the SEC has been lax. And if you look at what they could have done, including valuing some of these mortgage-backed securities so there weren't some of the runs we have seen over the last two weeks, they could have been more proactive and more aggressive."

Appearing on CNN's Late Edition, Portman, whose good standing among Republicans on economic matters catapulted him high on the V.P. list, generally echoed McCain's talking points this past week: that the SEC has accountability in the current crisis, that more streamlined regulatory measures are needed, and so on.

But Cox's firing (which, it should be noted, a President can't perform in the first place) was a step too far for him.


"You know, I think I agree with Senator McCain's general assertion, which is the SEC has accountability here," said Portman, when asked by host Wolf Blitzer to clarify. "They have the ability to regulate the financial markets and the responsibility to do so and they could have done more and should have done more. It's also easy, I will say, for us to look back 20/20 hindsight. But my point on Chris is that I know him to be a competent and smart guy."

Earlier in the day, longtime conservative writer George Will described McCain's call for Cox's firing as "un-presidential behavior by a presidential candidate."