Friday, September 26, 2008

Who Is This Guy?

David Brooks is dismayed over the way the McCain campaign is being run.

[W]hat disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument. I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain’s worldview is different.

McCain has not made that sort of all-encompassing argument, so his proposals don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. Without a groundbreaking argument about why he is different, he’s had to rely on tactical gimmicks to stay afloat. He has no frame to organize his response when financial and other crises pop up.

He has no overarching argument in part because of his Senate training and the tendency to take issues on one at a time — in part, because of the foolish decision to run a traditional right-left campaign against Obama and, in part, because McCain has never really resolved the contradiction between the Barry Goldwater and Teddy Roosevelt sides of his worldview. One day he’s a small-government Western conservative; the next he’s a Bull Moose progressive. The two don’t add up — as we’ve seen in his uneven reaction to the financial crisis.

History has shown that how a man runs for president presages how he’ll run the country, and if what Mr. Brooks describes is the real John McCain, then he has no business being president. His inability to multitask isn’t an endearment, it’s a fatal flaw, and this week’s response to the financial crisis — the “suspension” of his campaign, the call to delay the debates, the invocation of World War II — show that he’s not capable of scaling his responses to the events. This isn’t new; Mr. McCain’s knee-jerk responses to previous events such as the Russia/Georgia conflict — he advocating going to war against Russia — to the threat of Hurricane Gustav — he suspended the first day of the GOP convention — were indicative. If he truly believes that, then it makes you wonder how he’d respond to something of a truly monumental scale or if he has the ability to handle the many reins of running the country, and it shows a startling lack of perspective, which is not a desirable quality in a president. And if it’s all a cynical attempt by his campaign to ramp up the fear quotient for political expediency (a lesson learned from the Bush administration), it adds another document to the ever-growing pile of evidence that John McCain lacks the judgment and the fitness to be president.