Is McCain smarter than we think?
That “we” being me and my fellow leftoids who have watched McCain’s antics with disbelief as he “suspends” his campaign, “rushes” back to Washington (well, with several stops along the way), provokes the wrathful mockery of David Letterman, and disrupts negotiations over the Wall Street bailout proposal by putting forward a Republican alternative.
So far, he seems pretty laughable. Obama got the high ground yesterday when he gently chided the “injection of presidential politics” into the negotiations without mentioning his rival by name. Tonight he will score more points no matter what. If McCain shows up for the debate he wanted to postpone, he looks like a fool; if he doesn’t, Obama gets an hour and a half of free media to hold a town hall confab with the audience, answering questions about the very crisis McCain feels is so dire. In the battle to “look Presidential”, McCain appears to be losing.
But no one likes this bailout. I saw it Wednesday at the reference desk as patrons voiced their unsolicited complaints to me, one of whom requested contact information for her Congress critters. “I’m going to give them a piece of my mind!” she said. It was a supreme test of my duty as a reference librarian to maintain an objective demeanor.
The Republican “revolt” is driven not only by free market ideology – their objections to increased government intervention in the finance and banking industries – but also by voter anger that tax payer money will be spent on crappy mortgage assets. Voter rejection of the bailout may not be universal, but it has crossed ideological boundaries, uniting Left and Right in angry rejection of saving the asses of irresponsible and fraudulent practices by a group of elites who have already benefited by tax cuts, deregulation, and previous government bailouts. Congressional Republicans – and not a few Democrats – will face unemployment this November should voter anger find expression at the ballot box.
What then do Democrats really gain from being so cosily “bipartisan” in their negotiations with BushAdmin, tweaking a Paulson plan that voters fundamentally reject? Chris Dodd and crew deserve credit for forcing serious concessions on executive pay and for insisting on an equity stake that could recoup taxpayer money spent on asset purchases when they are resold (reportedly, this worked well for Sweden in the early 90s.) Yet voters will see this is as a dollop of sugar in a bitter pill that few are convinced they should be forced to swallow.
What good then if Obama gains points for his cool demeanor when voters perceive his party has had a hand in dealing them a bag of shit? McCain’s disruptions may come to look like a principled stand for taxpayers, playing into that “maverick” image he is so fond of.