The Economy? It’s the Terrorists Stupid!

John McCain, from an interview with Fortune magazine.

Senator, what do you see as the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy?” That was the first question we put to John McCain when he sat down for an interview with Fortune on a sunny afternoon in June…

McCain at first says nothing. He sits in the corner of a sofa, one black, tasseled loafer propped against a coffee table. We’re in the presidential suite on the 41st floor of the New York Hilton. McCain has come here – between a major speech on the economy in Washington, D.C., this morning and a fundraiser tonight at the 21 Club – to talk to us and to let us take his picture. He is wearing a dark suit, as he almost always does, with a blue shirt and a wine-colored tie. He’s looking not at us but into the void. His eyes are narrowed. Nine seconds of silence, ten seconds, 11. Finally he says, “Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we’re in against radical Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences.”

That’s right Virginia, terrorists are the biggest problem facing the US economy. Not oil prices, healthcare, lagging educational performance, stagnant wages, inflation, hell not even taxes. The biggest problem for the US economy is that terrorists might kill us all and make it irrelevant.

This is just dumb on so many levels, but at the end of the day it brings two problems into focus. The first is that, to put it right out there, John McCain just doesn’t understand the issues. There’s the obvious, and admitted, economic ignorance on the one hand, and then there’s the ignorance about the terrorists on the other hand. The simple point of fact, as many have noted, is that the terrorists just aren’t going to “prevail.” Osama bin Laden is a prominent face of a very small movement. He might have the occasional success, but those tend to be, for lack of a better word, nuisances. The average terrorist strike yields a fair amount of damage but relatively low casualties. Sure there’s September 11th, but that’s a truly unique example that has no duplicate to point to. The idea that al-Qaeda or similar Islamic radical terrorists can kill 3,000 and knock down a monument/office building at will is insane, as is the idea that Islamic terrorists represent a grave threat to our very existence. It’s debateable that terrorists even intend to be a threat to our existence, as their immediate goal is Islamic governments in Islamic majority nations, which is why they’re most prominent in the less ardent states that the United States is allied with, and why they subsequently attack the US.

Secondly, it focuses media apology for John McCain’s unseriousness. There’s just no better way to put it then that. From this to dismissing every question about fiscal policy and the budget with talk of earmarks and pork, John McCain is just not serious from a policy standpoint. But the media, currently, has a vested interest in waxing that away. There’s 3 primary reasons for that. Firstly, McCain is the heavy underdog in the election, and current indicators are pointing towards a big Obama win in Novembor. The media needs a competitive race to keep interest, and ratings, high. Secondly, the media doesn’t really understand the issues being discussed either, so their stories function more as a stenography service. And finally, reporters like McCain. Especially with Obama limiting press access and so on, that general joviality deepens ad McCain benefits from more lax coverage from reporters who don’t want to rock the bus, er, boat.

It remains to be seen whether the American people will fall for the same routine.