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Friday, September 19, 2008

Bush Disappears, McCain Wishes He Could

Bush-Quayle buttonWay back when George Bush -- the original recipe one -- was president, there was some suspicion that Vice President Dan Quayle wasn't as stupid as everyone thought he was. The theory went that the White House, realizing that a President Quayle was just never going to happen, decided to use Quayle as Bush's political escape pod. Whenever Bush started getting criticism, Quayle would misspell potato or buy an anatomically correct nutcracker-doll or get a marble stuck up his nose or fall down a manhole and, presto, different headlines. "HOW MUCH DID BUSH KNOW ABOUT IRAN-CONTRA?" could be changed to "QUAYLE WAS AN IDIOT AGAIN" overnight.

I don't give this hypothesis any credence. Quayle later ran for president and he still pops up occasionally as someone who wants to be taken seriously, so I doubt he had agreed to throw his future career out the window. I think this idea works because; 1) Bush was always getting criticism toward the end of his term, and 2) Quayle was always being an idiot. Call it a convergence of PR disasters. But it'd be bad politics all the way around -- most obviously for Quayle, but also for the president who chose him.

I thought of this -- you can't really call it a conspiracy theory, but I guess that's the closest description -- last night when I saw this piece by Politico's Roger Simon:

Where’s George? The president, I mean.

You remember him. Dubya. No. 43. Won a second term a few years ago. It was in all the papers.

But where has he been lately? Where has he been during America’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression?

Nowhere. AWOL. Every now and then, when the stock market takes yet another sickening plunge, a few words issue forth from the presidential lips. A very few words. Delivered with the greatest reluctance.


If ever there were a president who needed everyone to say, "Hey, look over there!" it's this President Bush. You think you've got scandal fatigue, imagine how he feels about it. The problem is that he's getting exactly the distraction he needs, although it's probably not the distraction he prays for with all his little heart.

The McCain campaign provided that distraction yesterday by imploding.





It was actually fascinating. It began with the news that the post-convention bounce was finally over and McCain's inflated poll numbers deflated. While it seems like Team McCain knew this was coming, it -- perhaps combined with the economic barn fire Monday -- really seems to have thrown them off their game.

In an interview with a Miami radio show, McCain appeared to have confused Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero with Mexican Zapatista rebels (which he further seemed to confuse with the Colombian FARC) and Spain with Latin America. McCain, clearly lost in the interview, wouldn't say whether or not he'd meet with Zapatero as president. Since Spain is a NATO ally, but not a popular one in the White House after pulling out of Iraq, this sparked speculation that McCain would continue Bush's policy of being pissy about these things. And that was giving McCain the benefit of the doubt. Not giving him the benefit of the doubt would require acknowledging that Mr. Foreign-Policy-Expert didn't know what the hell he was talking about. When someone asks you about a European leader and you start talking about South American drug cartels, something is very, very wrong.

Not to be outdone in the incoherence department, Sarah Palin took a question at a rally about new drilling. How would new fuels from American sources help domestic markets if it could be sold overseas?

Think Progress:

Oil and coal? Of course, it’s a fungible commodity and they don’t flag, you know, the molecules, where it’s going and where it’s not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first. So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it’s Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It’s got to flow into our domestic markets first.


If you're wondering if that actually means something in English, you're not alone. Allow me to quote The Venture Brothers; "I dare you to make less sense!" Is she calling for a total export ban? That'd be a free market no-no and a violation of current law. Luckily for Team McCain, no one has been able to translate it from BS to English, so it means whatever you want it to mean. This is the woman John McCain said "knows more about energy than probably anyone else in the United States of America." If that's true, we seem to be very screwed.

Speaking of solutions that are illegal, McCain responded to the market meltdown with an entirely hypothetical unconstitutional fix that wouldn't change a damned thing. "The regulators were asleep, my friends," McCain said. "The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president, and in my view, has betrayed the public trust. If I were president today, I would fire him." The chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission, Chris Cox, is the head of a regulatory agency -- the president can't fire him. And even if he could, this would do what, exactly? Unless McCain has a time machine and can go back and fire him before everything went all to hell, it wouldn't actually do anything constructive. As plans for economic reconstruction go, this isn't one.

This brings us to my favorite bungle of yesterday. Seeing that McCain's plan to hypothetically fire the SEC chair might be seen as divorced from reality, Team McCain sent out this bit of press release fun:

In his rush to score political points on economic disaster, we've heard that at his next event in New Mexico, Senator Obama is about to distort the facts and attack John McCain's call for removing the Chairman of the SEC.


Writes Washington Monthly's Steve Benen, "[It's] entertaining to realize that the McCain campaign is criticizing Obama for something he might say, before he says it, accusing Obama of 'distorting' the facts, before he's even spoken. In other words, the McCain campaign line is, 'Obama might point out how McCain screwed up earlier, and if he does, he's being totally unfair -- because we say so.'" Team McCain clearly knows today is going to be another bad day and they wanted to get a jump on it.

So Bush can disappear into the background like a threatened chameleon, while McCain's campaign draws all the fire from the press. But this Quaylish relationship can't make either of them happy.

-Wisco