The recklessness of John McCain

by Seth Green | September 25th, 2008 | |Subscribe

Last week, John McCain was saying that our economy was fundamentally strong. Now, he’s in such a panic he’s ready to suspend his presidential campaign just over a month before citizens go to vote. Watching McCain handle the economic crisis, it scares me to think about how he would deal as commander in chief with hot-button issues of war and peace.

The problem is that McCain seems willing to do anything to act like a “maverick,” even in situations where we need a steady and smart hand. When every economist was saying we were in trouble, he said we were doing well and Wall Street needed no regulation. Then, literally hours later, after his advisors got a hold of him, he said we were in crisis and proposed massive changes, including firing the head of the SEC and building a new regulatory apparatus to deal with unchecked corporate greed. There was no thought process to get him from one side of the debate to the other – he just seemed to jump from one unusual position to another on the opposite end of the spectrum thinking these unusual positions would show how he’s different. Indeed, his views are different – recklessly different than the mainstream. Now, he’s suspending his presidential campaign because he thinks we are in such turmoil that a 2-hour debate would dislodge our economy. Is this the stable leader we want with his hand on the red button?

And perhaps what upsets me most about all this is that McCain never had a preventive strategy. Until Wall Streeters started losing their jobs, the economy was strong in McCain’s mind. Never mind the massive home foreclosures. Never mind the crying out from economists on our unsustainable debt levels. Never mind the job losses among ordinary Americans. Then, Lehman traders lose their shirts and suddenly it’s a full-blown a crisis.

Listening to President Bush last night, I couldn’t help but feel that McCain shares Bush’s complete inability to comprehend nuance. Bush has gone from free market cheerleader to suddenly being so convinced that we need government action that he says if we don’t act immediately we will face a “long and painful recession.” Bush did not even acknowledge the possibility our economy could bounce back with a smaller initiative. It was the same oversimplified logic – do exactly what I say or there will be immediate and grave danger – that led us into the Iraq war.

We need a President who understands nuance and has the patience to make wise long-term decisions. And McCain seems to lack both nuance and patience. He frames his unusual decision-making style in terms of “change” and “reform,” but it is actually more of the same recklessness that got us into an unnecessary war in Iraq. The last thing we need right now is more firings, more angry rants about greed, or more stunts like canceling debates. What we need more than ever is smart, stable leadership that can inspire our country and the world to trust us again.


  1. Andy2 wrote,

    If you read Jeff Goldberg’s recent profile of McCain in Atlantic Monthly, he makes the case that McCain is willing to swing so wildly from position to position on things like the economy because they don’t matter. At least, not compared to restoring the honor and confidence of our military. McCain is third generation military, and that is very scary. The military answer is not always right, yet McCain seems to think anything other than the military is not an imporant enough issue to develop a consistent view.

    Contrast with Obama, who last March outlined a serious position on the economy, one that he is consistently following today. About all McCain’s been consistent on is the military, and while we can give him some good marks for supporting the surge and opposing torture, military thinking is not what the country needs, especially not military thinking that holds all other issues as insignificant in comparision.

    Comment on September 25, 2008 @ 7:54 am

  2. Faz1 wrote,

    In truth, it is dangerous for the world that these two men to have anything to do with influencing a financial package, outside their senator status. Whatever McCain might pretend, they are still very much both in campaign mode. They will suggest things which reflect well on them and gain the popular support.

    But the package which gains popular support today is not necessarily the best package for long term recovery. however, I doubt that either will propose an unpopular package, a month away from election day, even if they know in their heart of hearts that it is the best one.

    Comment on September 25, 2008 @ 8:09 am

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