More Ad Nonsense

The new McCain ad reminds me of what’s wrong with Presidential campaigns, particularly when something important comes along.

The central claim here is that McCain “led” during the financial crisis, while Obama, and apparently Democrats, did nothing. First of all, as you should expect, it’s not accurate in the slightest. Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson, who are neither McCain nor his Congressional allies, handled the bulk of the immediate fallout and then crafted a bailout proposal. Now Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, the Democratic chairmen of the relevant Congressional committees, are putting together an alternative proposal. Congressional Republicans are basically trying to figure out whether they can vote for a bailout, while Obama and McCain campaign for President.

The other, more important, aspect is what this says about the way our politics frames very important events. McCain basically says he owns because he “led.” But in what way did John McCain lead anything last week? He jumped back and forth on his regulatory positions, proclaimed the fundamentals of the economy strong, and then finally decided the answer was to fire someone. Unfortunately, he picked someone, the chairman of the SEC, the President has no authority to fire, demonstrating that not only doesn’t he understand a big, complex, financial problem, not necessarily a huge sin in itself, but that he had no idea how basic relationships of government work despite being a member of Congress for nearly 3 decades. Obama put out a statement detailing the problem and what needed to be done to fix it, incorporated it into his stump speech, and then went on about his business. Why? Because he’s not President yet.

Only in the course of an American political campaign could what John McCain did last week be constrrued as “leadership.” Whereas Obama acknowledged that, as a Senator not on the banking committee, he was in no position to handle the nuts and bolts of the response and, in turn, got out of the way and let the people in those positions do their job, McCain went around grandstanding in a way that can only make matters more difficult. It’s a classic Bushism to be sure,┬ábut if that’s the sort of leadership we can expect from McCain then we ought to be worried if he manages 45% of the vote in November.

What’s he going to do if a trade dispute arises with Europe during his Presidency? Fire the chancellor of Germany?