The Last-Ditch Gambit

John McCain’s impulsiveness is not the characteristic I want in a president; it’s one of the many reasons I’m not voting for him. But I’ll be damned if it’s not making the campaign interesting in the last few months.

As you likely have heard, McCain is calling off his campaign and looking to delay the first debate on Friday in order to go back to Washington and get hands on with the economic plan and the miserable failure that the Bush Administration’s $700 billion dollar bailout proposal is on the floor of Congress.  “Dead on arrival” is almost too kind to describe it.  It is rare that you can get both Republicans and Democrats outraged at the pique of a proposal that would centralize the funds in the hands of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson without any sort of oversight, but that is where we stand — and rightfully so. Giving out $700 billion to a trillion dollars to essentially socialize the failure of the market without regulation is utterly ludicrous.

(Personally, if Congress must do this, then get some severe regulation in line and only pony up a portion of that money — call it the Chuck Schumer Plan, as I think he was the first to bring up that idea.)

And I can’t state enough just how much people hate the idea of a bailout at this point. In my little corner of the world, we’ve done MOS (man on street) interviews and, of course, completely unscientific polls, and it has been hard to find a person who will utter a word of support of handing over $700 billion to the rich failures right now.

But McCain is up against a wall. The economy is not his strength, and his rollout of his economic plan last week looks to have backfired on him in the sense that the facts on the ground and with regard to the bailout proposal have rendered it outdated in the news cycle — never mind his “the economy is fundamentally strong” gaffe.  Since he is behind Barack Obama on these economic issues, is now reeling from his campaign manager still being on Freddie Mac’s lobbying payroll, and Sarah Palin saying there has to be a bailout plan, he’s boxed in.  Never mind that the longer this economic talk and policy goes on, someone might bring up McCain’s relationship with Charles Keating again.

I would like to ask Obama, “What the fuck are you doing?” when it comes to reaching out to formulate a statement with McCain. Be a leader. Make your own damn statement, say what you would do as president, and hammer that shit home.  When sincere policy differences matter in how economic bills are handled, DO NOT hide behind post-partisan claptrap.  Hillary Clinton would have laughed at such an idea, and this is the time when for the good of smart policy, distinctions in politics are what matter. Push your middle-class tax cuts; keep talking about bringing back the regulation and oversight that was missing, hammer home the need for ordinary Americans to get something out of this.

McCain is essentially politicizing the bailout negotiations now after a week of hardball when both candidates were far away from the morass in Washington.  This is the last-ditch effort to catch up on the economy: McCain has been a post-partisan “maverick” when it suits him and is advantageous; to suspend a campaign two days before a debate reeks of pulling out while you are behind and masking it in post-partisan rhetoric (which I loathe when it comes from Democrats and Republicans; more often than not, it is used to muddy the waters and pretend sharp policy differences do not matter when we all know they do.)  Obama was severely mistaken by saying it was no longer a “Democratic or Republican” problem — more than two decades of Republican-led deregulation policies got us down this path — but he was right in saying this is not the time when a debate should be canceled.

If anything, a debate right now is essential — change the focus to economic and domestic policy rather than foreign, but right now, we need to hear what both McCain and Obama would do, and draw differences between each other. If you want to go back to Washington, let’s go back to D.C., and hold that debate in an unused Capitol office, without fanfare.  Now is not the time to hide.