Friday, September 26, 2008

Grand Old Grandstanding

John McCain flew in to Washington yesterday (on his flying white horse) to save the day. Unfortunately for him, by the time he got to Capitol Hill, there was a tentative deal in place on the bailout. The dog and pony show at the White House included a bipartisan panel that basically discussed the deal and it became clear that House Republicans were not on board. Barack Obama did his best to try and form a consensus while John (Dirty Harry) McCain sat silently by. I find this kind of puzzling for two reasons. First of all, John McCain was the one who called the President and asked him to hold this meeting. And secondly, his entire reason for "suspending" his campaign was so that he could work on this problem.

I think it is clear that the House Republicans and John McCain are now playing politics. House Republicans have refused to even attend some of the meetings that were planned last night to try and work out an agreement. While John McCain refuses to articulate an opinion on either the original proposal or the compromise proposal. This is a tactic to try and prove his "maverick" status. He can say that he didn't just rubber stamp the proposal from the Bush administration and instead worked with Republicans to come with an alternative that was more beneficial to "main street" America. House Republicans can run against the Bush proposal to show their distance from the unpopular President.

I think that it's perfectly fine for Congress to take a good hard look at what is being proposed and what it means to the public, but while it may not take $700 billion to fix the problem, it is going to take genuine agreement on the Hill to come up with a solution. Stalling, refusing to attend or storming out of meetings is not helping us come up with a solution. That is just grandstanding (just like John McCain "suspending" his campaign as he continued to make speeches, run ads, kept all of his field offices open and his surrogates blanketing the news networks). I want the best deal possible for the American people, but what I don't want is for this to turn into a game of chicken with the economic future of the world at stake. The House Republicans, emboldened by the return of John McCain (who hasn't cast a vote in the Senate since April), have decided that they are going to hold these talks hostage until they get what they want.

I personally think that the Democratic leadership has been too quick to capitulate to the demands of this administration on far too many occasions. I think that any negotiations should include a serious consideration of the Republican alternative (which basically wants to set up a governmental "insurance" policy that could be partially funded by private investors). The Democrats in Congress have not shown the backbone to stand up for the citizens of this country. The Republican option may not be workable (and I really have no idea if it is or not), but it might contain some elements which can be included in the final Bill. The Democrats in their rush to meet the administrations Monday line in the sand, may have overlooked some alternatives which would make for a better piece of legislation. They themselves are now involved in some political grandstanding. Instead of recognizing an alternative proposal, they are basically pouting over the fact that some Republicans don't want to play ball.

This is an extremely serious situation (yesterday saw the largest bank failure in history) and must be dealt with quickly. However both sides have now hardened their positions and are holding the economic future of the world hostage to their egos. I'm not sure how this gets resolved, but I'm hoping that cooler heads will prevail. I look forward to the debate tonight and to listening to the solutions, to end this deadlock, that each of the candidates will put forward. Both Obama and McCain can come out of this crisis with an improved image in the eyes of the public, but it is going to take a show if real leadership and real sense that they are putting the country ahead of their individual goals. Grandstanding can get you headlines, but a display of leadership might just get you to the White House.

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