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Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain Stops Bailout: My Hero?

40% of me wants to cheer for John McCain this morning. I'm still not convinced that the federal government needs to hand $700 billion to banks that made bad decisions. On the surface, it would appear that by declaring a faux suspension of his campaign, sitting silently through most of the White House meeting yesterday, and voicing only vague doubts at the end, McCain has thrown a monkey wrench in the great socialist works. Ah, the drama! the intrigue!

That's where the other 60% of me gets suspicious, of myself and of Senator McCain. I've spoken before of my love for great political theater... but as I get older, I'm realizing that my desire for great spectacle and surprise is great for directing plays but not so apt for sound government. Sure, a leader needs to make bold decisions and bring big ideas to the table. But citizens, the markets, and diplomacy also require a steady hand at the executive tiller. And over the past month, Senator McCain has shown increasingly erratic leadership, throwing everything—schedules, caution, reason, principles—to the wind in a desperate pursuit of personal political gain.

Let me try to live in Senator McCain's head for a moment. I'm not convinced (nor are those economists I mentioned yesterday) that a federal solution is necessary, but Senator McCain talks like he is. Senator McCain apparently believes that a solution is needed, and fast (McCain, Monday: "Congress must act and must act quickly"). Yet whatever the senator did in Washington yesterday, he does not appear to have made much effort to actively participate in crafting a workable solution. He's not even the leader of the revolt: it's House Republicans bolting from their President and offering an alternative insurance plan, while McCain follows along for reasons that don't square with his words about urgency (not to mention putting country first).

The more I watch, the more I see McCain playing Hamlet, acting melodramatic if not plain crazy to keep his enemies off guard, and driving the whole Danish crown to ruin (and into the hands of his opponent Fortinbras). Or maybe the more apt metaphor is old King Lear. My fellow English teachers, knock yourselves out with that one.

Senator McCain is showing a declining capacity for coherent political leadership and action. All he has left appears to be scheming and surprise. That's another reason why, contrary to my own theatrical inclinations, I'll find myself voting for someone known as "No Drama" Obama.

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