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John McCain used a few words at last night’s debate that just made me cringe. Among them, “Friends” (This, we are not). “Fundamentals,” “economy,” and “best” (There’s no way you can make magic out of this combo; stop trying to explain away past comments). And finally, “cronies” (sorry to say, but you were better off with the “liberal elite” characterization). But, there were four words McCain was flinging around with some success: “Fannie Mae” and “Freddie Mac.” Here’s a snippet:

Really the match that lit this fire was Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. I’ll bet you, you may never even have heard of them before this crisis.

But you know, they’re the ones that, with the encouragement of Sen. Obama and his cronies and his friends in Washington, that went out and made all these risky loans, gave them to people that could never afford to pay back.

And you know, there were some of us that stood up two years ago and said we’ve got to enact legislation to fix this. We’ve got to stop this greed and excess.

Meanwhile, the Democrats in the Senate and some — and some members of Congress defended what Fannie and Freddie were doing. They resisted any change.

Meanwhile, they were getting all kinds of money in campaign contributions. Sen. Obama was the second highest recipient of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac money in history — in history.

Ouch, that’s a nice little dig there, until you wind back and listen to what McCain actually said. The mortgages giants, which he claims to understand so well, are actually not lenders. It’s Mae/Mac 101! Let’s go straight to the source, Fannie’s website:

Fannie Mae operates in the U.S. secondary mortgage market. Rather than making home loans directly with consumers, we work with mortgage bankers, brokers, and other primary mortgage market partners to help ensure they have funds to lend to home buyers at affordable rates. We fund our mortgage investments primarily by issuing debt securities in the domestic and international capital markets.