McCain, Obama, and the great economic meltdown

Whew, what delicious drama this is for political junkies. One could wish that there wasn’t so much at stake.

Reading the blogs and listening to the pundits after McCain’s decision yesterday to suspend his campaign, it seemed like the nay-sayers were in the forefront, even among McCain supporters. That is, “McCain took a gamble, but he made a mistake.” I differ on this. Without a doubt, this is still playing out, but I think it helps McCain in the longer run to be seen as being willing to suspend political campaigning at this moment of national crisis, and it will not help Obama when people look back and remember that he treated this meltdown of the economy as something he could easily handle, all the way from Florida, all while practicing his debate lines in front of the mirror. The message of his press conference yesterday was, to my ears at least, “I don’t know what to do about it. Uh, we should come together and be bipartisan. And, ah, they told me that if they needed me they’d give me a call.”

Well, he got the call — not from his own party leaders, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, but from President Bush. The president is focused on getting some kind of deal sealed as quickly as possible to avert what we are told will otherwise be a complete catastrophe. That requires the leaders of the parties in congress, and — at this unique juncture for such a crisis to arrive — it requires the two presidential candidates, who are nominally the heads of their respective parties. No bipartisan deal could go down without the support of these two guys, one of whom will very soon be the president and will have to follow through on any deal’s massive implications and obligations. McCain’s actions yesterday announced that he realized that. He was already on his way. Obama had to be called.

Sure, everyone wants to see Obama and McCain debate. As President Clinton (in his new and welcome role as an attack dog on behalf of the McCain/Palin ticket) said on one of the morning shows today, we all know that McCain has been wanting to debate Obama for months, so we know that McCain’s not afraid to debate. At the very moment that I heard McCain wanted to postpone the debate, my own heart sank a little. But then I thought about it, and decided that it’s not about everyone’s first reaction of disappointment. It’s about how this will look when the dust settles. The debates will happen anyway. The question is: should they go to Mississippi and debate foreign policy if the greatest threat to everyone’s economic well-being since 1929 is still hanging over America, and being wrangled over in congress? Or should they, as in effect the leaders of their respective parties, be there in person to lend their weight and authority and judgment to a bipartisan deal?

I think McCain was right in the sense of being morally correct in suspending his campaign and putting the country’s needs first. And I think — although I could easily be wrong in this tumultuous and erratic political season to end all political seasons — that his move will ultimately be seen as the politically right thing to do too.

Addendum: Finally, I think I’m beginning to grasp all the issues surrounding this whole financial mess and bail-out, thanks to the essential Iowahawk debate on the subject.

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