punch and judy

But is it comedy or tragedy?

| One for the money, two for the show — oops, it's a no-go!

We are witnessing a great unraveling. The financial-system "rescue plan" — originally proposed by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and heavily modified by bi-partisan consensus in Congress — was on the verge of becoming a done deal yesterday. Until, that is, John McCain charged into town on his white horse to solve the crisis that until a week ago he claimed didn't exit.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) minced no words when he called McCain's intervention and a last-minute, hastily convened White House summit of Congressional leaders and the presidential candidates "political theatre," saying "What this looked like to me was a rescue plan for John McCain for two hours."

But it did give John McCain the photo he wanted, sitting at the table with all the principals.

White House financial summit
John McCain and Barack Obama at opposite ends of the White House negotiating table

Unfortunately for McCain, the whole thing was a bust.

• People in the room later said that during the meeting Barack Obama "peppered" Paulson with questions while McCain sat there saying little. Furthermore, with the few words he did say McCain remained vague about his own position on the proposed plan — hardly the behavior of a decisive leader.

• House minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) threw a monkey-wrench into the deal saying that the House Republicans wouldn't go along.

Later, the Republicans tried to blame the breakdown on Obama, claiming they had been forced to revolt to prevent the Democrats from pushing through an agreement before McCain had an opportunity to participate:

But a top aide to Mr. Boehner said it was Democrats who had done the political posturing. The aide, Kevin Smith, said Republicans revolted, in part, because they were chafing at what they saw as an attempt by Democrats to jam through an agreement on the bailout early Thursday and deny Mr. McCain an opportunity to participate in the agreement.

NY Times, Sept 27, 2008

Poor Johnny, those big bad Democrats not letting him play! What a crock!

Along the way, McCain cancelled a scheduled appearance on David Letterman, pleading the necessity to rush back to Washington to solve the crisis. Problems: instead of rushing back to Washington, he made a stop at another CBS studio for an interview with Katie Couric, spent the night in New York, and took time to make a speech at Clinton's Global Initiative meeting. Some 22 hours after announcing that he was suspending his campaign and taking charge, he finally landed in Washington just as leaders were announcing they had agreed in principle on the deal.

Last night, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show did a segment that went for the jugular, mocking McCain and his frantic, irrational response to the whole crisis.

Bravo! Five minutes of the kind of apt skewering that has made The Daily Show a huge hit.

And David Letterman did not take being dissed lightly.

McCain's campaign has careened from one mini-drama to the next, reflecting his "ready, fire, aim" temperament. It's been all about tactics designed to change the subject, to keep us from noticing that he really doesn't have any coherent program in mind of where he'd like to take the country.

Two days ago, McCain said he would not participate in the first presidential debate in Mississippi unless there was a solution to the financial crisis. The ploy didn't work, however, because Obama said the debate should go on, this being precisely the time when Americans should see the candidates side-by-side and be able to make comparisons. He cited the "walk and chew gum at the same time" argument, forcing McCain to either participate or look like he just didn't want to debate. Some of the more cynical pundits speculated that McCain wanted to postpone the presidential debate as a way to force cancellation of the vice-presidential debate scheduled to take place October 2.

Speaking of Sarah Palin — she is McCain's Vice-Presidential pick in case anyone has forgotten — the bloom is fading rapidly from the rose. Every time she opens her mouth without a script it is unmistakeably obvious that she is out of her league, totally unprepared for the office for which she has been nominated. Her interview with Katie Couric was painful to watch. And in today's Washington Post, Jonathan Capehart juxtaposed Palin's interview with another would-be beauty queen trying to answer a simple question.


It's very sad, really. As much as I think a McCain presidency would be a disaster for the country and a Palin succession — god forbid — would be unthinkable, we've seen another John McCain that has done good things. But now that he is channeling Karl Rove, he has become a laughingstock. Very sad.

It's not that I think Obama will be the greatest president of all time. He's got his liabilities, too. But one thing is certain — he has to be better than the last eight years.

There is so much at stake, and we are watching a buffoon stumble through the campaign.

Last updated on Apr 13, 2018



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