If you have not made up your mind about whom to support for President, last night’s debate about foreign policy and the ongoing economic crisis may not have helped you. Neither Republican John McCain nor Democrat Barack Obama committed a major gaffe or landed a knockout punch. Neither expressed a new idea.
So I suggest you count the debate as a draw and seek enlightenment instead in the swirl of events that preceded it. It shouldn’t be all that hard to see which candidate behaved more like a President. Here’s a hint: he’s not the one who refers to himself as a maverick.
You’d have have to search long and hard to unearth an example of impulsiveness, head-snapping reversals of opinion and outright grand-standing as unsettling as the show McCain put on this week.
When the dust he kicked up finally settles, it will be clear that McCain was responsible for delaying a desperately-needed, bipartisan plan for coping with the most serious economic challenge the U.S has faced since the Great Depression, just to advance his campaign.
Falling behind Obama in the polls because voters believe the Democrat would do a better job fixing the economy, McCain gratuitously inserted himself into the delicate negotiations between the White House and the leadership of the House and Senate over a $700 billion proposal for easing the credit crunch ignited by the collapse in mortgage-backed securities.
McCain’s intervention emboldened some House Republicans to repudiate a President of their own party and suggest their own proposal, thereby torpedoing, at least temporarily, a proposal that had united the Bush Administration, the Democratic leadership of both the House and Senate and the Republican leadership of the Senate.
Those forces managed to get the talks back on track and they may even come up with an agreement over the weekend, no thanks to McCain. He claims to revere bipartisan efforts to cope with national emergencies- but in this case, it was not country first, but his ambitions.
Not satisfied with throwing a monkey wrench into the delicate deliberations so that he could later claim to have put them back on track, McCain sowed further disruption by suggesting that last night’s debate be postponed.
He never, of course, had any serious intention of boycotting the debate. He just likes hogging the headlines. It was not until Friday morning that McCain reversed himself and proclaimed that he would show for the debate after all.