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Thursday, September 25, 2008

How to Politicize a Crisis

John McCain has put politics aside and suspended his campaign. Four days into the crisis, McCain will beam in from the campaign trail and straighten everything out. Four days of work have gone on and now McCain's going to come in and straighten everything out. Does this seem especially helpful to you? If so, consider history.

Washington Post, via Capitol Hill Blue:

At a bipartisan gathering in an ornate meeting room just off the Senate floor, McCain complained that Cornyn was raising petty objections to a compromise plan being worked out between Senate Republicans and Democrats and the White House. He used a curse word associated with chickens and accused Cornyn of raising the issue just to torpedo a deal.

Things got really heated when Cornyn accused McCain of being too busy campaigning for president to take part in the negotiations, which have gone on for months behind closed doors. "Wait a second here," Cornyn said to McCain. "I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line."

McCain, a former Navy pilot, then used language more accustomed to sailors (not to mention the current vice president, who made news a few years back after a verbal encounter with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont).

"F--- you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room," shouted McCain at Cornyn. McCain helped craft a bill in 2006 that passed the Senate but couldn't be compromised with a House bill that was much tougher on illegal immigrants.

Yeah, that ought to go well. Associated Press offers some other examples of what Baghdad Johnny's steady leadership might look like:

"Only an a------ would put together a budget like this," he told the former Budget Committee chairman, Sen. Pete Domenici, in 1999.

"I'm calling you a f------ jerk!" he once retorted to Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.

McCain says he won't return to the campaign until there's a deal. With leadership like he's supposedly bringing to Washington, that could be some time next year, when it's signed by President Obama. Of course, there's every chance that he'll do the wisest thing, which would be to shut up, vote with the winners, and take credit for it afterward.

Of course, "suspending" a campaign doesn't involve anything other than saying you're doing it. They won't buy ads or do any fundraising, but I'm guessing if you cut them a check, they won't send it back. How do I know this is what McCain means by "suspend?" Because the McCain campaign typed up talking points to use when campaigners go on talking head shows to discuss how they aren't campaigning. These talking points from a campaign that's campaigning by saying they aren't campaigning were accidentally emailed to the press and the gimmicky nature of the McCain suspension is exposed. That McCain campaign, it's a well-oiled machine.

McCain's suspension includes possibly, maybe skipping tomorrow's presidential debate. Turns out that's not such a good idea. SurveyUSA did a flash poll last night of 1,000 respondents and found that a majority think the debate should go on, three-quartes believe the campaigns should go on, and 46% say postponing the debate would be "bad for America." McCain's impulsive decision, like his impulsive VP pick, may turn out not to be the wisest one. McCain also suggested postponing the vice presidential debate, but that's so transparent that I wouldn't expect to hear that suggestion to go far.

Of course, none of this would have anything to do with the fact that McCain's dropping in the polls. The question is whether voters will see this stunt for what it is; cynically politicizing a crisis to score points. I hate to say it, but those undecided and swing voters seem a little slow on the uptake. It took a while for the shine to wear off Palin, so it may take a while for them to realize that McCain's playing them again. McCain is gambling again and it'll be a day or two before we see if it pays off with some sort of bump. His economic credibility definitely needs a little burnishing. After saying that the fundamentals of the economy are strong, McCain really needs to do something to look less clueless. I have some doubt as to whether this is it.

For his part, Barack Obama is blowing the stunt off and trying to turn it into a negative. "This is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess," he said of postponing the debate to a crowd in Florida. "Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time. It's not necessary for us to think that we can only do one thing and suspend everything else."

In other words, if you can only keep one ball in the air at a time, don't try out for lead juggler. Of course, John McCain sees it differently; "F--- you! I know more about juggling than anyone else in the room!"


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

McCain seems to have got that bit out of Machiavelli's _The Prince_ about appearances. He wants to appear that he is putting country first. He's counting on the electorate to be really stupid. Of course, some people don't know about the way the Senate's leadership works, the fact that the thing is still in committee, and so on and so forth, but still, one would hope people see through it, diehard McCain-brand Kool-Aid drinkers excepted, of course.