When I heard that John McCain was suspending his campaign and asking to delay Friday’s debate so that he could return to Washington to deal with the banking crisis, my bullshit meter went off for several reasons.
1. The only thing he can bring to it is politics. This is such a blatant stunt that the only thing that it’s going to do is distract from the work that the Congress should be doing. The Republicans will be swarming around the microphones saying how this “sacrifice” by the candidate proves how much he understands that something has to be done or we face financial Armageddon. Except that a week ago, John McCain pronounced the fundamentals of our economy were sound. And the Democrats, even if they were inclined to agree with anything Mr. McCain proposes (such as…?), they aren’t going to say it or back it because it’s got his name on it. And as Rep. Barney Frank said on MSNBC, the Congress is making progress on the bill and it sounds like Mr. McCain wants to air-drop himself in at the last minute after all the work is done and claim credit for it.
2. What does it tell you about Sen. McCain’s ability to manage a crisis if he has to ask for a time-out? Can’t he run both a campaign and be a senator? Or, as Matt Yglesias notes, can’t he walk and chew gum at the same time? After all, a lot of presidents and candidates have campaigned, held debates, and done their other business during wars and other national crisis and they didn’t stop. Franklin Roosevelt ran for re-election during World War II — from a wheelchair.
3. Once again this calls into question Mr. McCain’s judgment. He makes a snap decision, shoots off his mouth, takes a stand, and lets the chips fall where they may. He’s bragged that that is a part of his personality and that it was — wait for it — honed when he was P.O.W. Example: he launched a pre-emptive war of words against Russia over Georgia, which only inflamed the issue, and endeared himself to the neo-con wing of his party and scared the crap out of our European allies. Or his snap decisions. Example: Sarah Palin.
4. This has all the signs of desperation. I listened to Sen. McCain’s statement, and then saw it again on TV. He looked absolutely terrified. Of what? Debating? Losing?
I’m sure there are some people who are saying that this is a statement of Mr. McCain’s leadership abilities. Yes, I suppose it does. More’s the pity.