Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If This Is a Political Stunt...'s a darned good one. McCain has now and forever changed the tenor of the entire campaign with one well-intentioned move. He has "suspended" his campaign — meaning that he wishes to cancel/postpone this Friday's debate — in favor of attending to his senatorial duties during our financial crisis.

Win, lose, or draw it's a good move. Any response by Obama or his campaign is going to sound nothing short of self-serving if his response is anything other than agreeing with McCain and suspending the debate long enough to pass whatever artificial "solution" Congress will present to the President.

In fact, Obama's campaign has already spurned McCain's request, stating, in effect, that it isn't Obama's fault that McCain is incapable of multi-tasking. But this response has an immediate hollow sound to it, as if trying to get a clear tone from a wooden bell. Obama is really saying that the current financial crisis is not worthy of his full time and effort as one one-hundredth of the United States Senate. Whichever way he votes (if, indeed, he bothers to vote), it will be a vote that relies strictly on the work of others. It may or may not carry specific provisions upon which Obama would insist because he won't be there to propose or defend them. McCain, on the other hand, whether or not one agrees with his approach (I'm pretty sure I don't) will have participated in the debate, been seen as negotiating compromises, and generally look as though he thought this crisis as worthy of his attention.

In the Political Perceptions Game, this is functional equivalent of forcing your opponent to draw dozens of cards from the Uno® deck.

All that's missing so far is Joltin' Joe Biden tearing into an adoring crowd and saying something like, "Well, I don't know what ol' McCain is runnin' from, but it's clear he doesn't think he can win any debate with Barack Obama." In fact, I'm hoping he does something exactly like that, since Biden himself represents another one-hundredth part of the Senate, and if he follows his boss's example he'll be too busy stumping while Obama memorizes his responses to the debate questions.

Obama made one statement that should be examined, though:
"... I think that it is going to be part of the President’s job to deal with more than one thing at once."
Nice little bit of snark, that. Multi-tasking must be one of the requisites of community organizing if Obama is so good at it. In the days immediately following the attacks of 9/11, however, one wonders just how much (more) criticism would have been levelled at President Bush if he hadn't given that event his full and undivided attention. Is it possible that he was multi-tasking during that crisis? Perhaps, but the perception was that he was working around the clock to formulate a response and deal with the attacks head-on. Wasn't one of the harshest criticisms of Bush and his administration that their response to the Katrina disaster was anything but adequate? How does that fit in with the demand for a multi-task-capable President?

Senator Obama, who is understandably busy running for President this week, would, I think, be forgiven if he decided to follow McCain's lead and spend some time worrying about crafting the bailout package. It's not a terribly popular thing, granted. I sure don't like the President's bailout plan. I personally feel it leads precisely to the sort of "New Deal" thinking that Senator Clinton seems to be advocating these days; a new Depression-era bureaucracy designed to keep the federal government permanently interfering with mortgages ad infinitum. But a solution of some sort is required, and we need our sitting legislators, whether or not they happen to be running for President of the United States, to show us how they would "handle" this mess, rather than talking us to death about it.

The ball is in your court, Senator Obama, and I think you've just missed the serve.

No comments: