Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Politics Unusual

We're in uncharted waters here, folks.

When it comes to politics, anyone who's lived long enough has likely seen his or her share of strange bedfellows, October Surprises, clever gimmicks and underhanded, Machiavellian machinations -- but this is something new completely. This is lunatic trickery in its absolute purest form.

What the McCain campaign is attempting right now -- what this latest desperate play amounts to at the end of every other desperate play that's come before it -- is nothing short of staggering. By announcing the temporary suspension of his campaign, John McCain hopes to lure Barack Obama into a kind of trap that only the most craven and cynical of political operatives could dream up. He truly believes that he's concocted his own little Kobayashi Maru scenario whereby Obama, no matter his move, can't win: If he agrees to McCain's ludicrous suggestion that both sides call a truce until the economic bailout bill is negotiated -- which would include postponing Friday night's debate -- McCain can claim victory; if he refuses to relent and continues to campaign even as his opponent doesn't, McCain can point to it as an example of Obama putting his own interests above those of his country. McCain once again can wrap himself in the big banner of "Country First."

It's a Hail Mary pass like nothing we've seen in American politics in, well, perhaps ever.

And it won't work -- at least not the way McCain hopes.

First of all, it would be a different story if Obama weren't lurching so far ahead in the national polls right now -- tainting what might otherwise have seemed like a moment of mad genius with the stench of utter desperation. What's more daunting, though, is how ironically unsurprising this gambit is in the context of the rest of the McCain campaign. For weeks now, we've watched McCain play parlor trick after parlor trick; tell lie upon lie; go backward then forward then sideways; issue confirmation then denial and back, all in an effort to win at any cost. He pulled Sarah Palin out of his ass to grab women voters, energize the base, and capture the narrative, then hid her from the press in the presumptuous hope that no one would notice how frighteningly unqualified she is -- to say nothing of outright dumb. He called for the head of SEC chairman Chris Cox, then the very next day called him "a good man." He threw ads on the air which made claims that weren't simply dubious, they could be disproved by any 6th grader with a laptop. He drew a hardline in the sand that in essence would plunge this country into a tense standoff not just with its enemies but with an ally, all because he was unwilling to admit that he made a mistake and misunderstood the question he was being asked in the first place.

And now, most confusingly, he sounds an alarm of American Armageddon -- saying that the current economic crisis requires that he suspend his campaign, otherwise the country will face a new Great Depression by next Monday -- when just nine days ago he declared that the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

Feel free to call all of this audaciously shrewd. Feel free to say it smacks of Rovian brilliance.

It doesn't.

It doesn't prove McCain is crazy like a fox -- it proves he's just crazy.

The reality of what he's hoping to accomplish with this tactic is nothing so sublime as to even qualify as canny political opportunism. The reality is that McCain hopes that by moving this Friday's presidential debate to October 2nd, he can then push the debate scheduled for that night -- the vice presidential debate between Job Biden and Sarah Palin -- back, well, maybe indefinitely. He's calling a time out not only to give himself some breathing space while his team, which is down heavily with very little time left on the clock, figures out its next play -- he's doing it in the hope of keeping the cheerleader he drafted on a whim from ever having to get in the game.

Thankfully, Obama is calling him on this bullshit. He's insisting that America, now more than ever, needs to hear from the two people who are vying to become its next leader -- that there should be no mistaking what each candidate plans for the future of this nation if elected. Likewise, he's laying into McCain for the latter's tacit admission that when things get bad -- really bad -- the only option is to take a break. A president has to be able to deal with not simply one crisis but ten if necessary, and not back down, no matter the conditions.

What Barack Obama is saying, without actually coming out and saying it, is that debating the fate of our economy and every other issue confronting us is nothing less than a necessity -- a patriotic duty -- right now.

Come to think of it, Obama should go ahead and just say it:

He's the one putting "Country First."


lakelady said...

looks like Obama is the one not blinking this time.

Ryan said...

When you consider Cindy McCain's family business all of Johnny's tactics make a whole lot more sense.. he's just trying to drive everyone to drink...

Anonymous said...

are we really supposed to believe that the economy will fall apart without the undivided attention of Sen. McCrackers? Does he have super powers that we are unaware of? Does he actually this he is this important or just expect everyone else to believe it cuz he says so...

VOTAR said...

Yeah well they're already spinning this into McCain the Savior arriving in Washington on a Silver Horse to rescue America. See, apparently, in order to pass the bail-out, they need Republican votes, and supposedly McCain -- as the de facto leader of the Republican party -- will demand that they do his bidding and vote for it, while Obama's tactful offer to stay out of the process will be shown to be just more detached arrogance.

McCain: Man of Action! (*)

Obama: "call me if you need me."

I'd like to think no one is going to be stupid enough to fall for it, this time, but well....

(*) Formerly McCain: Champion of Unfettered Deregulation!

Deacon Blue said...

Anonyous 10:38...

you mean, you don't know that if McCain and Obama both go back to Washington, that will increase the mana level of Congress just enough to cast a spell of financial resurrection that will save our economy and erase Dubya's legacy before November?

I mean, it's so obvious.

And I can't believe Obama is so selfish as to keep his mojo to himself instead of running off to D.C. like McCain...

...oh, that's right, McCain ran over to do an interview with Katie Couric first in New York. After telling David Letterman he couldn't do HIS show because he's desperately needed in Washington.

Maybe he was hoping he could tap Couric's sorceress powers to fill the gap left by McCain. Too bad for him she's using all her magical juice just to keep her job.

ascian said...

... what was she doing in his ass?

b80vin said...

I don't think this is going to endear him to any but the hard line vote Republican at any cost voters. The stupendous audacity of it is unprecedented and indefensible. Underestimating the public's intelligence has been a shrewd tactic by Rovian minions on the right, but this, I think, is one step too far.

As for trying to delay the Oct.2nd debate this may indeed be the ultimate prize in this ploy. At a recent "Town Hall" meeting Palin and McCain appeared together with no opponent and a hand-picked crowd, and she still managed to say this (long quote but worth it):

"It's a matter of Congress allowing these lands to be tapped -- the offshore drilling -- the allowance given there, also, for safe, reliable and ethical drilling of these resources," Palin said. "Yes, the oil companies have the leases, the right to develop; they also have a duty to develop when it's economic, when people are hurting, they need to tap those resources and get those sources flowing. That's part of the reform that we're going to usher in to D.C., and we did that up in Alaska."

"But when asked how she would help keep any new domestic oil produced in the United States, Palin gave a less-than-well-articulated non-answer.
"Oil and coal? Of course, it's a fungible commodity and they don't flag, you know, the molecules, where it's going and where it's not. But in the sense of the Congress today, they know that there are very, very hungry domestic markets that need that oil first," Palin said. "So, I believe that what Congress is going to do, also, is not to allow the export bans to such a degree that it's Americans that get stuck to holding the bag without the energy source that is produced here, pumped here. It's got to flow"

Apart from that last paragraph being hard to fathom (because it's gibberish), the claim that she had a policy of producing more oil in Alaska is false. Oil production has fallen during her governorship. OF COURSE they want to keep her away from Biden and a hungry press.

Stephen said...

You forget Kirk was the only student to ever pass the Kobayashi Maru...he rigged the test for a favorable outcome. Obama can do the same.

Unless this is a coded message...then you go right on quoting regulations Mr. Pazienza!

Ben Fleming said...

I wonder, when McCain got shot down in Vietnam did he call a time-out as well?

Mr. Controversy said...

It would be fitting retribution for Grandpa Cranky Pants McGee stealing the "change" tagline during this election.

Kurgan said...

Votar is spot on.

They left Obama with few options, other than exlaining himself.

Perceptions are a bitch.

Just when Obama was on the uptick.

chuck williamson said...

Looks like McCain is pulling a Jimmy Carter -- and no, this does not bode well for his campaign if he is absent from the debates on Friday and reconfirms his image as a doddering old man too lost and confused to participate in the democratic process.

drater said...

B80vin, thanks for the Palin quote. I can't stand her, but I figured she couldn't be as dumb as everyone says. I stand corrected.