Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

It’s October and just like what happens every four years at this time, one side of the pageant we like to call a presidential election is going negative. We, the public and press, will act all surprised and maybe even a little outraged at some of the things one campaign, or its supporters, says and the conversation will remain there. We won’t talk about the real issues – neither side in this year’s event actually acknowledged that in January they will have to make some very tough decisions regarding what promises they may be able to keep right away and which ones will have to be scrapped all together because we just won’t have the money. While the negativity does not surprise me at all, for some reason the mock horror expressed at it does. Not by the campaigns themselves – Barack Obama’s supporters should be upset by what Sarah Palin has been repeating at every speech. Moreover, we all should be worried when people attending rallies think it is fine to yell out things like “Kill him!” when referencing a candidate for president. John McCain was right when he told one woman that she need not fear Obama but if anyone didn’t think the campaign would go there, well I don’t know under what rock those people have been living. Back when it was assumed that McCain’s Democratic opponent would be Senator Clinton, he did not correct the supporter at an event who said she hoped he would ‘beat the bitch.’ And that was during the primary season when the gloves were on. And remember, the rumors about Senator Barack Hussein Obama have been swirling around for years – he’s a Muslim (and if he was, why is that bad again?), he took his oath of office on the Koran, his wife hates America… They play right into the GOP’s culture war campaign handbook, just look back to how Dubya won Ohio in 2004 (gay marriage) or for that matter the biggest reason Jesse Helms was in the Senate as long as he was. Personally, these accusations seem simultaneously so ridiculous – you cannot, for instance, blast the minister of his Christian church AND call him a Muslim and offensive to be true but people believe them.

The bright side is that all of the press about the blatant racism of some of McCain’s supporters may piss more people on the other side off enough to make sure they vote. It’s very easy to become complacent when your candidate is ahead in the polls and the economy is tanking (whichever party has the White House when this happens usually suffers come election day). This reminds me of part of a song from the musical Into the Woods:

Just remember:
Someone is on your side
OUR side
Someone else is not
While we’re seeing our side
Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.
No one is alone.

While this marathon of a campaign is almost over, a few weeks in politics is a lifetime and every time you hear something so outrageous that you cannot believe anyone would believe it remember: someone probably does.

Thank God, McCain came back to the Capitol. To think we almost had a plan.

John McCain claims to suspend his campaign to rush back to Washington to fix the nation’s economic mess. Not that when he said he was going to rush back he meant right away. According to some reports, including the Daily Show, which I LOVE but generally is not my source for breaking news (remember, as brilliant as Jon Stewart is, he is a comedian), McCain took care of some other financial business in NYC – namely fundraising for his campaign that he had suspended.

Finally 22 hours later, McCain arrived in Washington. And just in the nick of time because Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner (R-OH, I will get to him later) had just announced a bipartisan plan for the economy. Bear in mind that while neither Barack Obama or McCain sits on any of the relevant committees in the Senate, their support of this plan was needed. They needed to be here to be briefed on it because one of them will inherit this mess. As other people have pointed out, McCain’s support was actually more important to this deal. This is because Republicans spend most of their time railing against the evils of government (unless they want it to watch what you do in the bedroom, who you talk to on the phone or what books you read, then it’s either all about God or security.) Having McCain’s backing would have provided political cover for GOPers and would have made this a truly bipartisan bill, which it should be. The bad news is that while his presence could have been helpful, it wasn’t. As Senator Harry Reid pointed out, we needed leadership not a presidential campaign photo-op, and that’s all we got.

And this is where our dear friend, Mr. Boehner steps in.

“Ordinarily a Republican president’s problems are with Democrats, especially if they control the House and Senate. In this case, Bush seemed almost over that hurdle. To be sure, Democrats demanded a number of changes in his $700 billion bailout plan, but administration insiders signaled they probably were acceptable. They included greater oversight, more protections for taxpayers, efforts to head off home foreclosures and piecemeal allocations of the federal money to buy toxic mortgage securities.

What caught some by surprise, either at the White House meeting or shortly before it, was the sudden momentum behind a dramatically different plan drafted by House conservatives with Minority Leader John Boehner’s blessing.”


As the House Minority Leader, most of the GOP Members do not do much without his blessing. Saying this happened with his blessing is like saying the Declaration of Independence was written with Thomas Jefferson’s ‘blessing.’ Even Treasury Secretary Paulson begged Nancy Pelosi to not let this fail – do any of us not know that presidential appointees ‘serve at the pleasure of the president?’ Even he acknowledged that it is the Republicans are holding this up. Earlier this week, everyone’s favorite economic thinker, George W. Bush told the nation that we need to act immediately to save our economy. What I cannot understand is that if he gets it, why can’t the rest of HIS party? And should John McCain show up at the debate tonight, Jim Lehrer should ask.

Of course if he blows it off, I don’t think will be any question that he should not lead anything much less our country.

Shameless political tactics masquerading as responsible government

On Wednesday morning Barack Obama called John McCain to talk about the possibility of them making a joint statement about the nation’s current economic crisis. I don’t know what happened with that but the news of the day had little to do with this because the press was too busy covering McCain’s big announcement. He said he would suspend his campaign (events and ads) and was pushing to postpone the first debate, this Friday night, so the two Senators could return to Washington and get to work. If anyone thinks this is anything more than it is – a shameful political tactic – just isn’t paying attention.

As obvious as this move it, it also borders on being brilliant. John McCain’s post convention bounce is gone. The luster may finally be falling off Sarah Palin. Moreover, when McCain holds events without Palin, not as many people show up. This never looks good for candidates. Barack Obama raised 66 million dollars last month. Most media accounts see last week as being one of the first good ones for the Obama campaign in weeks, if not months. Something had to be done and it had to be big. By talking about suspending the campaign to come back to WDC and help fix the crisis, McCain almost looks like he is returning to his more admirable roots. It looks like he is putting the country before his own political ambitions. That is the McCain plan, which may work the sad part is it is all just crap. It is in McCain’s personal best interests to take a break from the campaign.

Neither candidate is on any of the committees who are dealing with the proposed bailout and there is little reason to believe their presence at meetings they have never attended before would add anything positive. Senator Harry Reid said we need leadership on this issue ‘not a campaign photo-op.’ While photo-ops have their place in both our government and politics, this is not the time or place for such things. During the Clinton administration, both President Clinton and Vice President Gore toured an area devastated by a flood. Clinton visited with people impacted by the crisis and ‘felt their pain.’ Gore met with FEMA officials to make sure aid got to the people who needed it. One could argue that Gore helped more but it was Clinton who got the credit. I bring this up because I do not think these are always useless.

On the flip side, Obama and McCain will meet with Dubya at the White House to work out a compromise on the administration’s proposal for a bailout because the next president will have to deal with this on day one. That is a fine idea and what they should be doing. This, however, does not mean they should not continue the campaign or debate each other. If anything, this crisis makes their meeting and answering questions on how they would govern more important. Regardless of whether or not a bill is passed by Friday (it won’t happen until Monday) we need to see these two men face each other and the country and answer real questions about policy. And as Obama said, presidential candidates (and presidents) should be able to do more than one thing at a time. Maybe we’ve forgotten that with Dubya occupying the White House for the past eight years but if Obama shows up tomorrow and McCain does not, he will prove again that not only does he not care more about his political future than the country’s but he is not the man we want to run our country.