I claim no great affection for either candidate. On any number of issues I care about, there isn’t much daylight between them. The economic crisis, however, has exposed McCain as a political charlatan of the first order. It has also done much to reveal the prevailing attitude of the American right, who evidently yearn for any man on horseback to lead them forward.
Consider this: McCain, despite his self-admitted lack of economic knowledge, has decided to parachute into Washington to save the day (via Slate, emphasis mine):
It’s not clear what, exactly, McCain is going to do in Washington. He doesn’t sit on any of the relevant committees, and everyone is already deep in negotiations. Still, he’s coming anyway. It doesn’t make much logical sense. The only way to understand it is politically: In a presidential campaign, the surest sign that a candidate is playing politics on an issue is when he claims not to be playing politics on an issue. The only way for McCain to convince everyone that his intentions are 100 percent pure is for him to drop out of the race completely. A campaign doesn’t end—and its distracting affects don’t disappear—just because one candidate says so.
In doing so, he will probably provide enough political cover for wavering Republicans to vote for the bailout. Nascent efforts at real Congressional oversight will inevitably fall under the weight of bipartisan asininity. And if the bailout wasn’t going to get passed in record time without McCain, it’s guaranteed to sail through now: Congressional leaders are apparently anxious to push something – anything! – through before Maverick swoops in and steals the whole show.
And “conservatives” – the same people who should at least feign suspicion over the whole ordeal – rush to praise McCain for his bold leadership. Any leadership will do – any leadership whatsoever! This gem of a post praises Hillary Clinton – Hillary Clinton! – for announcing her solution to our financial meltdown. The author candidly admits she disagrees with Clinton’s policy prescriptions, but at least she’s doing something, which is now touted as evidence of credible national leadership.
I’m not opposed to the bailout as a matter of principle. I understand our economic crisis is grave. But the process itself has been absolutely horrific. Rhetorical window-dressing has replaced legislative oversight as Congress’s primary function. The Treasury Department has apparently decided to wring as much cash out of the legislature as possible – the theory being that they’re just stupid and scared enough to fall for it. Prudence and caution are both in short supply, and McCain’s grandstanding promises to remedy absolutely nothing. This is leadership?