Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain would rather tank the markets than lose an election

You know, the top paragraph on the CBS website sets it up just fine, so let’s dive in:

After Sen. John McCain announced he would suspend his campaign in order to focus on his congressional work ironing out the $700 billion bailout package - and proposed delaying the first presidential debate - he came to the CBS News broadcast center to explain the politics of the situation to CBS News Anchor Katie Couric.

Katie Couric: Sen. McCain, why is it necessary for you to take this extraordinary step of suspending your campaign?

John McCain: 'Cause these are extraordinary times. The financial crisis is on the verge of a very, very serious, most serious crisis since the end of World War II. That's according to Mr. Bernanke, Secretary Paulson and others. Any expert. This is a most serious situation. And it could … not only be United States markets, but world markets as well.

McCain continued with his hyperbolic fright-speak, saying: “I don't know anyone that doesn't believe that this crisis is of such enormous proportions that it has the possibility. . . of wrecking the economy in ways that we've never contemplated.”

Couric, who had earlier talked with the equally hyperbolic Sarah Palin, asked Palin's supposed number one about what the Alaska governor said:

Couric: Earlier today, senator, I spoke with your running mate, Sarah Palin, and she told me that if action is not taken a Great Depression is, quote, "The road that America may find itself on." Do you agree with that assessment?

McCain: I don't know … if it's exactly the Depression. But I know of no expert, including Mr. Bernanke, the head of the Federal Reserve, and our secretary of treasury, and the outside observers ... every respected economist … in this country is saying, "You better address this problem, and you better do it now, or the consequences, obviously, of inaction are of the utmost seriousness." So I agree … with Gov. Palin. There's so much at stake here. That's why I am confident that we'll sit down and work together on this thing.

Couric: But isn't so much of this, Sen. McCain, about consumer confidence?

McCain: Sure.

Couric: And using rhetoric like the "Great Depression," is that the kind of language Americans need to hear right now?

McCain: Well, listen, I've heard language from respected people: "oh, we're staring at the abyss." I've heard all kinds of things from people. I don't think we need to scare people. But I certainly think we need to tell them the truth. And tell them what's at stake here.

All of this from the same guy that, just ten days ago, told us “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.

Listen, no self-respecting pol should sugarcoat what is going on with the economy, but there is a difference between honesty and fearmongering. It is not just proper, but essential for people in positions of power, people whose words all by themselves can provoke market action, to be very measured and careful when talking about developing financial events. John McCain’s statements to Couric—just like Palin’s earlier—were not the least bit measured, they were borderline hysterical. McCain, Palin, and, with his speech late Wednesday, President Bush, have all chosen to risk provoking additional, severe market panic in order to further their political objectives.

And there is now no doubt that McCain’s moves Wednesday were politically motivated. A McCain aid accidentally e-mailed the campaign’s internal talking points on suspension to their entire press list.

Add this to last week’s off-the-cuff call for the firing of SEC head Chris Cox, and today’s campaign “suspension” and the call for a delay of Friday’s presidential debate, and you can see why John McCain might not be presidential timber.

And it’s not just those of us on the left who’ve noticed. This is none other Republican graybeard George Will, writing this week in the Washington Post:

Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.

Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. . . .

In any case, McCain's smear -- that Cox "betrayed the public's trust" -- is a harbinger of a McCain presidency. For McCain, politics is always operatic, pitting people who agree with him against those who are "corrupt" or "betray the public's trust," two categories that seem to be exhaustive -- there are no other people.

. . . .

Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

Now, with the Arizona senator’s latest irresponsible proclamations on the financial crisis (one he helped create with his 26 years of anti-regulation votes), it seems McCain isn’t just “not suited to the presidency,” he’s not even suited to campaign for it.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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