Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Which Way is Up?

Early last week, we heard John McCain say that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Then the stock market went south as the bank crisis worsened.

By mid-week he was striking a populist tone, demanding justice for American workers.

Late in the week and early this week, McCain changed tunes again, warning of a deepening crisis.

Now that the bailout plan is being discussed, according to McCain it is imperative that is be passed quickly or our economy faces certain doom. Both he and Palin have said in interviews that if the bailout is not passed quickly, we could find ourselves in a major Depression -- and we'll start feeling the effects as soon as Monday.

So which is it: is the economy sound, or are we all doomed?

I'm willing to give people some credit for changing their tunes after they get more information. Forming a new opinion when your knowledge and understanding of a situation expands is not a bad thing by any means. But spinning so far from one side to the other -- and throwing in the sky is falling doom and gloom story -- makes me think he's trying to work the American public (who have started to lose confidence in his ability to manage the economy).

Update 9/25: Turns out that as recently as Tuesday McCain had not yet read the Paulson plan! All 3 pages of it. Sigh.

So is the suspension of his campaign putting "country first" or merely a political stunt? I'd say more of the latter, as he hasn't felt the need to vote on anything since April. Both he and Obama are off most of the major committees so they can campaign, so there's little they could do in Washington other than pose for dramatic photos of them at tables with their sleeves rolled up. Jumping into the fray at this point might just mess things up. Personally I think he formulated this plan after Obama called him this morning to discuss issuing a joint statement about the crisis. McCain just took it one irrational step further than that to try to control the message.

Update 9/25: What exactly does "suspension" mean, anyway? McCain's campaign advisers are still making the talk show rounds today criticizing Obama. That doesn't seem like a suspension at all to me. If I went to a local McCain campaign office, would it be closed? Can I donate on their website? (Turns out I can!) So I guess "suspension" just means "an excuse for me to hold a press conference and act all presidential-like."

Here's something else to consider. McCain's announcement today mentioned that he was suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to help pass the bailout. That included canceling his appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. He called Dave personally to say he wouldn't make it because he would be on his way back to Washington.

But wait! It turns out he didn't head back to Washington. Not only did he stay in New York, but he did an interview in the CBS building with Katie Couric! He is also scheduled to speak at an event in NYC tomorrow. Needless to say, Dave Letterman was not pleased.

You know what? I'm not pleased, either. If you say the crisis is urgent and you need to be in Washington, then go to Washington! You can do the Couric interview via satellite -- or skip it until things have calmed down. But if you make a big deal out of everything as part of a political stunt, then by all means you can take all the time you need in New York. You wouldn't want to beat the camera crews back to Washington.

Edit 9/25: On a semi-related note, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson claims that he "welcomes" oversight of the bailout plan, but if he's really open to that, why does the plan itself contain this language?
Decisions by the Secretary [of the Treasury] pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.
Holy constitutionality, Batman! More and more it's looking like this administration is trying to shove this down our throats before we know what happened. I can't believe I'm going to quote Wolf Blitzer, but this says it all:
[Bush] faces an uphill battle to convince the American people he knows what he's doing.

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