Tonight was supposed to bring the most anticipated TV premiere of the fall season—a 90-minute special television event that would answer the questions that lie on the tips of all Americans’ tongues. Instead, Senator John McCain is hoping to pull the plug on the first presidential debate in order to work “full-time” on a $700 billion bill to bail out the American economy. Republicans see this as putting “country first”—we see it as a political stunt. The image of McCain valiantly running to the rescue on a white horse is certainly the fairy tale he hopes to conjure, but, as any child past the age of 10 knows, fairy tales are hardly reality. One senator will not be the savior of the US economic situation—and certainly not John McCain. The crisis on Wall Street and the ensuing scramble in Washington mark a grave turning point in American history, but an opportunistic McCain is hijacking the moment for no more than his own slimy political gain.
For a presidential candidate to suspend his campaign (or purport to) at the height of the election season can only be a gimmick. While McCain may have canceled his public events, the wheels of the McCain advertising machine continue to turn in several states; McCain has done nothing to stop campaign commercials on national cable that have already been cued up or radio advertisements in Florida, for instance. For a self-avowed “maverick,” McCain is proving despicably adept at playing the game of underhanded politics. Moreover, this is just the latest in a string of troubling leadership decisions McCain has made. His campaign has been one of the most reactionary in memory, with a series of events highlighted by the political “Hail Mary” choice of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. There seems to be an epidemic of, “Ooh, wouldn’t it be cool if…” running through the McCain camp, but this is no way to govern. Presidential decisions must be made with careful consideration of consequences and public reaction. McCain’s antics had the foresight for neither.
With a war in Iraq, climate-change crisis, and failing public schools, the next president will face challenges on all fronts. It is a crucial part of the executive’s charge to be able to multitask—or, if need be, delegate to those with the expertise to address the problems at hand. As Senator Barack Obama has constantly reminded the world, McCain has said that economics “is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.” Senator Chris Dodd and Congressman Barney Frank ’62 are the chairs of the finance committees in their respective legislative chambers. They, along with President Bush’s economic team, have the know-how and can-do attitudes to engineer a substantive bailout bill—without McCain’s help. Perhaps the esteemed senator from Arizona should let the experts do their jobs.
Indeed, McCain’s involvement has only worsened the situation—which doesn’t exactly need the extra obstacles. In this case, presidential politics has proven a poison in an environment that has so far featured some miraculous bipartisanship. America has seen partisan bickering get in the way of real issues before. The current debate has no place in Washington; instead, bring it to Mississippi!
McCain should have stuck to his commitment to debate Obama and help Americans make an informed decision in November—not jumped into a delicate political entanglement in Washington. His ploy—which will only throw Capitol Hill into chaos and disrupt both parties’ election process—does little to put “country first.” We can only hope that Americans will see through these shenanigans for the sorry stunt they are.