Politics or ‘putting the people first’?
Are John McCain’s plans to skip tomorrow night’s debate with Barack Obama nothing more than political maneuvering, or does he really see Wall St. bailout negotiations the only way to ‘put the people first’ – even at the expense of his campaign?
Clearly there is a purely political calculation involved in his decision. McCain is, after all, a politician, and he is in the midst of a campaign that is the most important of his life. One would be naive to believe that he is motivated completely and solely out of concern for homeowners and investors by skipping the debate to ‘work’ on the Wall St. meltdown.
The threat of not attending the debate is risky for both candidates. McCain is putting Obama in a possible lose-lose situation, whereby standing alone on the debate stage has the potential to make him look unconcerned with the pressing issue of the day while his opponent is off doing the real work, versus looking weak by following McCain’s lead to skip the debate until a bailout is produced. On the other hand, McCain risks appearing strange by not appearing, as well as giving Obama too much airtime. Obama alone at the debate, where he can bash his defenseless opponent and give an hour-and-a-half commercial for himself, could hurt McCain.
The real way to evaluate McCain’s move, though, is what exactly he is doing in Washington. So far, he appears willing to accept (with some conditions) the massive corporate welfare package being pushed, rather than what he should be doing: coming out strong against this move toward socialism and offering a real alternative, such as erasing the capital gains tax. If McCain were going to Washington to put the smackdown on this bill, rather than simply to offer a few tweaks and help push it through, it would demonstrate that he truly is a reformer who is putting the people first. And as an added bonus, he would score political points in the process.