Thursday, September 25, 2008

You say Tomato

John McCain called off Friday's debate by saying that he didn't want to participate in partisan politics until this crisis had been addressed. He then said that he was suspending his campaign and flying back to Washington to help in the negotiations. I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds this almost laughable. John McCain is going to try and get into the middle of negotiations about a topic which he has stated, more than once, is not his strong suit. This is the same John McCain who hasn't made it to a vote in the Senate since April. This is the same John McCain who lobbied against the new G.I. Bill, then didn't bother to show to vote for it and then received credit for it's passage by George Bush. This is the same John McCain who didn't show up to vote on the new energy bill or the Medicaid bill. This is the same John McCain who just last week said that the "fundamentals of the economy" were strong. This is the same John McCain who was disciplined by the Congress for his role in the S&L disaster. This is the John McCain who now wants us to believe that his leadership is absolutely required to help out on a deal that according to those closest to the negotiations is practically done.

A spokesman for the McCain campaign said that perhaps the debate could be delayed until next week. Of course next week is the Vice Presidential debate, which the same spokesman said might also be "delayed" until the crisis was over. Now why on earth would they need to delay the VP debate? Could it be that Sarah Palin has to rush to Washington to help out in the negotiations as well? Oh, that's right, she's not a Senator. But apparently she would be so "involved" that the debate would be out of the question. It couldn't have anything to do with her invoking the prospect of a "Great Depression" in her interview with Katie Couric, could it? There's nothing American public appreciates more from it's leaders than for them to fill us with confidence by saying that we might be on the verge of the worst economic collapse that the country has seen in almost a century. Great work Sarah. The McCain campaign can't get you away from a microphone fast enough.

This gambit by McCain has been roundly criticized in the press as a "political ploy". I think that McCain was unprepared to talk about the economy on Friday night. The debate was supposed to focus on foreign policy, but with the current situation, it is clear that at least some of the time would be spent addressing the proposed bailout and the effect that it would have on the world economy. I would ask Senator McCain if FDR called for a timeout when Pearl Harbor was attacked, or did Churchill call for a timeout when London was bombed night after night? Did Kennedy ask for a timeout during the Cuban Missile Crisis? The answer, just in case Senator McCain is a little fuzzy on his history, is NO. To try and make the claim that taking two hours on Friday to debate with Barack Obama is going to somehow make or break and agreement on this financial bailout plan is absolutely ridiculous.

The McCain camp seems to be grasping at straws these days. McCain seems to change his strategy every day. One day he's against bailing out AIG, the next day he's for it. One day he wants to fire the head of the SEC and the next day he's saying what a decent man he is. One day he's all for deregulation and the next day he's calling for greater government oversight of financial markets. One day the financial crisis is a time for bipartisan efforts to deal with the problem and the next day it's all Barack Obama's fault. I'm not sure what's going on over at McCain headquarters but they could certainly use a timeout. Unfortunately, this is not a football game. The action cannot be stopped just because one party thinks that he needs some time off. Unfortunately for John McCain, we can't just call the whole thing off.


Mark said...

I agree that McCain has played up the political aspects of the situation. The reality is, however, that the drying up of credit would have a "multiplier effect" (as it is known in economics) and indeed result in double digit unemployment and the most severe downturn since the Great Depression. This is not comparable to a GI Bill of Rights any other bill in my lifetime.

Letting Congress figure it out while campaigning shows a lack of understanding of how bills are passed. The face to face and personal interaction has a big impact on the final outcome. The scale of this bill and more importantly the tight deadline makes even a small influence on the of interaction critical.

McCain has played the decision for all it is worth but it was the right decision. Obama's response shows a lack of experience in both leading and campaigning.

Michael Hew said...

I have to respecfully disagree. The leaders of Congress and the Senate have been working on this bill since it was proposed over the weekend. They are close to an agreement. McCain admitted that he hadn't even read the proposal two days ago. His "leadership" on a subject that he has a less than complete grasp of is not crucial. Yes this is a huge crisis, however John McCain is not the President and the face to face meetings have been going on for almost a week without him and they would have reached a succesful conclusion without his "financial expertise" or moral support.

Mark, We appreciate you reading the blog.

Mark said...

Dear Michael,

The issue is not about expertise but about influence. Both parties in congress have demonstrated without doubt that if there is a dollar that can be directed to friends and supporters they will do it. Both McCain and Obama have made it clear that Washington is "Broken" and each say he is the person that can fix it. I agree with them.

But fixing it means you can't delegate the solution to the folks that are broken. The smoke filled room is alive and well in Washington and you have to be there to get the straight story and twist the right arms. Getting what people say after the behind-closed-doors meeting by phone is no substitute.

In both cases it is not the personal knowledge of economics that is the question, both have shown themselves to be weak on all but the most superficial principles of economics, but being able to see a loophole when it is slipped in, able to see an underhanded deal when it is cut and stop it before it gets entrenched doesn't take a PhD, it takes a will and sharp powers of observation. Both have the will but neither can observe from afar. They are talking about making sure the guilty CEOs don't benefit. That is beyond tough to do legally and there will be big money working to get that provision struck down as unconstitutional. A better avenue is an investigation by the FBI or preferably a special prosecutor to recoup any gains derived from deception after the fact. Structuring the mandate for such a process will take much more than speaking to selected individuals from one or both parties a few times a day.

I am a not partisan for either side, I am only trying to shed some light based on my experience negotiating internationally on why a personal presence in this kind of situation is critical.

I agree that McCain is playing up the decision to the hilt and the decision has a number of side benefits to him but he is right that both of them should be in Washington to watch the crooks. Obama could have and should have negotiated new timing for the debate that kept Palin on the hot seat and addressed the other issues. Staying in Florida was the wrong decision.

Michael Hew said...

I believe that the American people will be best served by the debates taking place as planned. A delay, at least in my mind is not needed. I think that arming the voters with as much knowledge as possible about the candidates is equally as important as passing some form of legislation to combat this crisis, but the two are not mutually exclusive. McCain's position of not debating until a deal is done just doesn't make sense to me.

I'm not sure if you've read our blog before, but you can be assured that while we are taking McCain to task over this, we have certainly criticized both the Democrates in Congress and Barack Obama. We do have a liberal viewpoint, but we are not ideologues. Our views are based on what is best for the country (as we see it), not what is neccesarily best for the Democratic party.

Anyway Mark, thanks again for reading.

Mark said...

Thanks. No, I have not read your blog before. I very, very respectfully submit that you are wrong. Moving all the debates back one week will give the voters plenty of chance to learn about the candidates. China has just instructed their banks to stop buying US debt. That means that a delay of only a couple of days will result in a complete collapse of the US dollar. Short of nuclear war I can't see anything that could be more important. So now we have two days to get a deal done. Getting it wrong will allow hundreds of millions of dollars to go into the wrong hands (CEOs and political cronies). Simply move the calendar back a week and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

SJ said...

Thanks for your well reasoned responses. Certainly any expensive plan of this magnitude in tax dollars has to be thought through further. No economist of note wants to even go on the line to say it will definitely work yet, but most everyone in government is saying it's a lousy measure that has to be enacted to avoid certain disaster. The necessary fighting over key issues of oversight and application has begun, thank God.
I guess what I and others in America are wondering is, (The in-person dynamic of legislation and government in our country notwithstanding) why does McCain feel that suspending his campaign and activities will make a difference in the process? In my estimation the likely political calculations inherent in his decision are undeniable.
Neither he nor Obama can be said to be doing anything without thinking of their standings first this late in the process.
When Obama signed off on the FISA bill a few months ago, we cited it on this blog as an act motivated by a political need to capitulate to the country's naked fears and doubts about his commitment to fighting terrorism as a leader. We maintained that it was not Obama's support or belief in the measure that prompted his vote, although I'm sure many believe that it's the vote he should have cast.
I agree with you that McCain's probably doing what he should. But I doubt that he's doing it because he should.

Thanks again for the strong and perceptive observations and counterpoints Mark.

Mark said...

I did not elaborate on the scam part of what McCain is doing before. The motivation to get hands-on is real and important. The politics parts are:

- "suspending" his campaign. He doesn't need to shut down his advertizing. He is doing that to save money and to somehow grandstand that he is a man of action. The only possibly valid excuse is that he has a real stinger of an ad coming out that would make bipartisanship look like a farce.

- this is super critical but he will attend the global conference (photo op) this morning.

- He should have made clear to Obama that he was going to do this. From Obama's comments he only mentioned it to him yet was ready to go before the cameras a couple of hours after they spoke. He had already decided and wanted to make Obama look like a follower. (Obama was out manuvered and should have announced at his news conference that he and he called McCain first, qhich he did, and that the had agreed to suspend noth campaigned that would have made him look equal or better than McCain on taking action and putting the country before politics. I honestly think Obama is very smart but his advisors are political hacks. Oh well, I don't think this will swing the election.