Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain's desperate political stunt

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Joe Klein makes pretty much the same point as Creature: "McCain suspends his campaign because of financial crisis? Oh please. Given today's poll numbers -- even Fox has him dropping -- it seems another Hail Mary (like the feckless selection of Palin) to try make McCain seem a statesman, which is difficult given the puerile tenor of his campaign's message operation.

It's a gimmick, a stunt.

He's not putting politics aside to deal with the crisis at hand, he's pretending to suspend his campaign to use the crisis -- or "crisis" -- to score political points. And some in the media are buying it, resurrecting the old fawning stand-by, the "bipartisan McCain" meme, the myth that he's all about putting the public interest before party and self, the myth that he's somehow above politics. (His history is to play politics by claiming to be above it all.)

But it's all so transparent now, even if his media enablers regurgitate the same old talking points. He's slipping in the polls, Palin's star is fading fast, and the focus on economic and other domestic issues has energized Obama's campaign. Simply, Americans trust Obama more than they do McCain when it comes to the economy.

And so McCain had to do something, anything. Attacks on the media, specifically on The New York Times for its report on McCain's connections, through Rick Davis, to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, were going nowhere, unlike over the summer, and returning to Washington and talking about suspending his campaign and working on brokering a deal to resolve the supposed crisis is just his latest attempt to alter the dynamic of the race by shifting the media's attention in his direction. And he may get away with it. He doesn't have that free pass anymore, or not so much, but the media still give him the benefit of the doubt more often than not. And the media are playing along already, reporting on his desperate stunt without context or skepticism, praising him for being a selfless leader at a time of catastrophic crisis and impending doom.

But it is arrogant as well as desperate. What McCain is saying -- and it is implicit in some of the media coverage -- is that he is the only one who can fix the problem, the only one who can makes things happen by bringing both sides, all sides, together. This plays into the myth of McCain the maverick moderate, the bridge between the two parties. But he has only ever been selectively bipartisan, and usually just to advance his own interests. He remains what he always has been, a staunch conservative and loyal Republican. It would be one thing if he were an expert on economic and financial matters, perhaps, but what expertise does bring back to Washington? All he brings is his myth, and his fawning media enablers, and his supposed leadership, and his fearmongering.

As he put it in his statement today, "America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system. We must pass legislation to address this crisis..." And so here I am, your saviour, riding in on my white horse. Behold my sacrifice! Behold it... and vote for me!

His stunt is desperate, arrogant, and utterly self-serving.

And it's exactly what we should have expected from McCain '08.

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