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As the U.S. economy implodes, following decades of unregulated greed and legalized abuses, President George Bush vainly attempts to stave off yet another black mark on his disgraceful legacy. In a desperate attempt to gain bipartisan support for a $700 billion golden parachute for Wall Street, paid for by Main Street, this most partisan of presidents invited the two major party candidates to succeed him to the White House. Why the media has made such a fuss about Arizona Senator John McCain and Illinois Senator Barack Obama returning to Washington to do the work they were elected to do is a mystery not to be solved here. But the gesture from Mr. Bush, like so much of his eight-year reign of terror, concluded in failure.
Prior to this supposedly momentous meeting, Mr. McCain had suggested postponing the first of his three debates with Mr. Obama. This, apparently, was his attempt to show his leadership, and how he puts the needs of the nation above such petty political considerations as to who is better qualified to lead the U.S. out of the disastrous mess Mr. Bush has led it into. Cynics may suggest that it is really only an effort by the awkward and poorly spoken Mr. McCain to postpone his face-to-face meeting with Mr. Obama, considered one of the greatest orators in generations. Be that as it may, Mr. McCain rushed to the nation’s capitol to lend his self-admitted limited knowledge and expertise about economic issues to help resolve to most severe economic crisis the world has faced in ninety years.
The outcome, unfortunately, was not quite what Mr. McCain had apparently hoped. He was first undercut by Mr. Obama, who disdained his suggestion to postpone the debate and suspend both campaigns, saying that a president should be able to handle more than one important thing at a time. Then, for all his rushing to Washington to wave his magic wand and bring about a bipartisan solution, CNN reported the following: “Multiple sources said McCain didn’t say much. Two Democratic leadership aides said he didn’t speak until 43 minutes into the meeting.” So much for his gamble that his presence at the discussions might be more than noticed. And then, by his own admission, he seemed to admit that he had failed. USA Today reported that he “issued a statement acknowledging that a bipartisan White House meeting he appeared to have sought to help showcase his leadership skills on the economy had devolved into a ‘contentious shouting match.’”
Later on in the day he reverted to that tried and true political gesture, the making of a statement that does not commit to anything. The same publication reported that Mr. McCain’s campaign issued a statement that said the Republican nominee “did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan.” Further, he urged “all sides … to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers.” One wonders exactly what it was he said at the White House meeting after sitting in stunned silence for 43 minutes. Perhaps he spoke up and urged all sides to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus. That would certainly grease the wheels and having everyone rushing to a sensible, bipartisan resolution.
So all in all, the economic meltdown has not shone a very complimentary light onto the elderly Mr. McCain. As late as January of this year, he said this: “I’m going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.” It appears from Mr. McCain’s dismal participation in the White House economic emergency session that his education still has a long way to go.
Yet that quotation raises some additional questions. Mr. McCain claimed to be knowledgeable about military and foreign policy. One wonders how he came about that knowledge. Does his foreign policy expertise come from his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam? While one might reasonably wonder how that experience helps to increase military policy expertise, Mr. McCain dredges up those experiences to explain everything from his first failed marriage to his taste in music. Why not throw in military policy as well? One might further ask what in his supposed vast expertise of military and foreign policy matters caused him to support from day one, until today, the infamous, disastrous, immoral and obscene war against the once-sovereign nation of Iraq.
But his selection of a running mate sheds some light on his education. Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, has implied that she is knowledgeable about Russia because, after all, one can see that nation from parts of Alaska. What further credentials are needed?
So let’s see now what we can all learn from this. First, Mr. McCain cannot multi-task: the ability to debate Mr. Obama cannot be contemplated when there is a major White House meeting scheduled at which he must sit in perplexed silence. Second, he shows his leadership skills in a manner typical of most U.S. presidents and members of Congress, by issuing a statement on one of the most significant issues facing the U.S. today that commits to nothing, offends no one and accomplishes nothing. Third, he still hasn’t a clue about the major workings, much less the complicated intricacies, of the largest economy in the world. Fourth, when he doesn’t have Governor Palin salivating at his side to use her novelty to draw attention from him, his many weaknesses as a potential world leader become painfully evident.
If ever there were a case for a political party to be experiencing buyer’s remorse, the Republicans must now be scrambling to see what the return policy is on their presidential candidate. Although nearly the entire lot that sought the nomination seemed to be dredged up from the bargain basement and put on display in order to make room for some revised models that somehow never made it from the factory, the one selected by the Republicans now appears to be the least desirable. And they have coupled that selection with an atrocious mismatch, and while bravely attempting to say they are pleased with this peculiar grouping (after all, they have found that there is no return policy), one hopes that, after Election Day, they will simply put it into a closet and forget about it.
Fortunately, the U.S. voter has a somewhat better, although more limited, selection to choose from. While only two ‘products’ are on prominent display (several others are barely noticed), one far outshines the other. Unlike the Republican Party decision-makers, the voters can reject the aged and incompetent Mr. McCain and his frantic running mate, and select the reasoned, intelligent Mr. Obama and his highly-qualified, long-experienced running mate. Mr. Obama’s election to the presidency will not be Nirvana, which is the apparent belief of many of his most ardent supports, but neither will it be Armageddon. A McCain president might take the world dangerously close to the latter.
ROBERT FANTINA is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006.