McCain Acting Like a Senator Not the President

I didn't want to be too much of a spoilsport last week, but my early read on McCain's disastrous suspension of the campaign last week, and subsequent debate zig-zagging, was much the same as Sean's. McCain dramatically overestimated his ability to control the battle space with a single grand maneuver. It was the starkest example in recent history of a candidate gambling -- and with seemingly no frickin' clue what would happen at that -- and coming up short.

But more than a misjudgment -- hey, those happen all the time in politics -- it surfaced a problem that should have been clear all along: McCain's inability to create a Presidential persona apart from his legislative persona.

Announcing that you're dropping everything, going back to Washington, and singlehandedly forcing a deal is not a Presidential thing to do, but it is a very Senatorial thing to do. Even in crisis, our Presidents have tended to project a calm, above-it-all demeanor that leaves the sausage-making to Congress, even if the behind the scenes reality is always somewhat different.

By injecting himself into the process so directly, and staking his campaign on it and eventually failing, McCain showed an impulsive nature shaped by years as the maverick of the Senate. Unfortunately, McCain misjudged what the people want from their President in a time of crisis. When Americans wanted a steady hand at the helm, McCain's behavior last week seemed not a little erratic. That's not uncommon for Senators who always have to jockey for position -- but unusual for a President.

Throughout the campaign, McCain has rebelled against the animatronic aspects of the Bush presidency by offering to bring Senatorial accessibility and back-and-forth to the White House, most prominently in his proposal to submit to questioning in the well of the House in the manner of a British Prime Minister. That's fine when the sailing is smooth. But the separation of powers sure does come in handy in times of crisis, when Presidents desceding into the Congressional muck may unnecessarily weaken them.

It's no coincidence that the last week has seen an Obama bump. In a time of crisis, Obama has projected a sense of calm and stability. This is not a commentary on his experience. What I am talking about is simple acting. But much of the Presidency is about building confidence through how you act.

McCain thrives on the frenetic energy of mano-a-mano legislative combat. This can be useful in getting things going when they are moving too slow, but when the underlying problem is that things are moving too fast -- with banks failing every other day -- people look for calm, reassurance, and orderly action. And Obama the Hyde Park socialist has done a better job of projecting this inherently conservative function of the President in the last week.

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Funny how people keep saying that Obama is acting "calm." Remember when McCain tried to reassure the public by saying "the fundamentals are strong" and everyone was clobbering him for say that. So then he acts like it's a serious crisis and he's being "erratic." So he can't win either way. He's not concerned enough. Then he's too concerned.

You miss the difference

Dismissing the crisis with "fundamentals are strong" is not calmly reassuring. It is terrifyingly clueless and causes panic in anyone who appreciates the severity of the crisis at hand.

Rather, in that case, remaining calm means acknowledging the scale of the crisis but remaining even tempered and working diligently to communicate the steps to be taken and the risks of not taking those steps.

McCain's "it's all good" moment last Monday was *not* reassuring and calm. It was madly out of touch with the reality.

I dunno.  Didn't seem that

I dunno.  Didn't seem that presidential and reassuring that Obama's response was "call me if you need me."

And with all the panic last week, I think the American people were completely against the bailout, but they wanted something to be done - reforms, holding people accountable, etc.  At least McCain went in to try and do his job while Obama thought his campaign was more important than the economic crisis.

It was his campaign


  Patrick is mostly right on this (Obama is not a Hyde Park socialist, just a progressive Democrat, and nowhere near the most liberal in the Senate, particularly one which has a real socialist).

 McCain wasn't acting calm when he said yet agan the fundamentals are strong, he was showing how out of touch he was.  And then to  try and compensate, he said he was suspending his campaign which was just a campaign tactic.

  And then he supposedly spent the weekend on the phone (something he could have done from the campaign trail), but at least according to Rep Issa, he didn't seem to be calling members of congress who were undecided or against the bill.

  It has not been a good week for McCain (and despite the hype from his campaign, the joint interview with Couric just makes both of them look bad and out of touch.  So did claiming victory on the bailout just before it was defeated - perhaps he should have been  on the phone trying to round up some votes instead of campaigning).



Ah, yes the "progressive" euphemism

That catch-all label when you are hard left but want to seem more "centrist" and "populist" to the voters.  Whast exactly kind of progress is Obama all about?  This gospel of change and hope nevers real specifics and when they do they always seem to change to something else later on.  

I agree with Patrick, he is a Hyde Park socialist, his voting record (when he is not voting "present") has been extremely left-leaning.  More so than the "real socialist" from Vermont who at least seems to somehwat support 2nd Amendment rights.

Obama was going to punt

Don;t give him too much credit here. The crisis was depicted as a "Republican" problem and as we have seen, the Democratic solutions are blindingly unpopular.

Besides, having been in DC for just long enough to remember Metro stops no one associated him with responsiblity for a fix anyway

Tut tutting from the sidelines was not some brilliant zen insight on his part, it was just inertia.

On the other hand, I disagree on McCain. Once he decided to get involved, he needed to go "all in" and leave the barnstorming to Palin. He should have been visible over the weekend summoning House members to his senate office lobbying them for votes. Presuming he got 12 more R's to bite the bullet, pundits would be writing "the man who saved Washingion" stories today. 

Obama is fundamentally wrong in one regard. A President can;t "multitask". FDR stopped going on TV to promote the New Deal after Pearl Harbor, for example. If the economic bailout was Job One, Mac had to get it done so as to clear the message filter to go back on the campaign trail.


Your right about that my man!

the only probelm is taht McCain's handlers won't let Palin be Palin.  this is a profound mistake of his campaign so far.  He won't let her be herself which is what really is the strength of his campaign.  I hope this will change after the debate.

Very good point

Palin came out at the RNC as vibrant, confident, refreshingly normal. What the heck has happened? I saw her nodding deferentially to McCain as he felt compelled to defend her against little Katie Couric. WTF? Let her go full bore - she is not a shrinking rose.

FDR stopped TV after Pearl Harbor !!!!!

@Ironman a President can't multi-task !!!! Aren't we running 2 wars right now ?

Also, check your history re FDR: the New Deal started way before Pearl Harbor and Tvs were not yet mainstream in 1941.

Sorry, your boy Joe Biden said they were

When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn't just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, 'Look, here's what happened,'” Barack Obama's running mate recently told the “CBS Evening News.”

BTW, FDR also fought "two wars' by your definition since the European and Pacific theatres were separate efforts.

Possibly, perhaps, maybe...

...but I think McCain can do something brash/bold to redeem himself.  And, yes, it'd be risky but he should do this; call for Nancy Pelosi to step down as speaker.  Reason?  She's too partisan to lead.  He could do this in a very "soft/genteel"  manor so as not to be too offensive to the ladies. 

Simultaneously, in a very hard/harsh way he needs to demand that Paulson be fired.  This is they guy America loves to hate right now.   Fired.  Not call for his resignation.   

McCain has been way too silent over these past few days.  And that, Patrick, is what is hurting him right now.   Seems to the average voter that he's hiding in the bushes until things die down.  And you're right, thats not very Presidential.   Darvin Dowdy

These are profoundly irresponsible suggestions...

There's a severe financial crisis going on that requires immediate action by the Congress and Treasury Department. Your thought is a presidential candidate and a Senator who has tried and failed to insert himself into the legislative process at the 11th hour, should now call for a major government shakeup as the only way to get the crisis solved?

Do you really think the electorate would not view this as a) prima facie crazy and erratic; and b) political grandstanding? Remember this kind of stunt is very unlikely to accomplish anything other than suggesting that McCain is erratic (a Maverick, if you will) and ineffective.

You need to think this through a little bit; make that a lot.

McCain gets smaller

John McCain has failed to connect from day one on this issue.  He has been on defense since this came to light and I'm stunned that 2 or 3 weeks later he still can not articulate a clear message to the American people. 

You're exactly right Patrick, his actions have made him look like a Senator, not a President.  He looked foolish suspending his campaign.  He looked foolished saying the debate may need to be delayed and then showing up and then coming up small the first 45 minutes.  And he looked foolish riding into DC on his white horse last week only to have this thing fail yesterday.  

John McCain gets smaller with each passing day and nothing short of an act from God will change the subject between now and November 4th.   



McCain is failing to make the case...

...for why he should be President.

Opinions - we all have them...

First off, McCain IS a senator - and it is his DUTY to do his job - more so with the financial crisis looming over our heads. It is not my opinion that he looked foolish saying he'd suspend his campaign for a few days while he went on to do his job. This might be your take, but I'll take a leader who is willing to roll up his sleeves and jump into the fray at such a horrific time in the history of our market over someone who thinks it's minor enough that should you need him, 'call him'.

BTW, you do realize that 40% of all democrats voted no and that 2/3 of republicans voted no. The bill was bad - and they couldn't agree how to fix it in the 2 days they spent fillibustering each other.

The real problem is that the congress think they are businessmen - when in fact, they don't RUN anything, even their own campaigns. They should be working with think tanks instead of within their own stink tanks.

McCain is no TR.

Try as I might, and I suspect many Independents are also having this trouble, I cannot see anything like Teddy Roosvelt in McCain's actions relating to the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street.

TR was a trust buster. So when McCain, a self-described "Teddy Roosevelt" Republican, went charging off to Washington to deal with the bailout crisis, many fiscal conservatives, and, as it turns out, many, many more Independents, assumed he was going there to bust up the incestuous relationship between the bankers of Wall Street and the Fed.

But when he got there, John McCain,  the "FDR" Republican, showed up.

Make no mistake about it, if John McCain, the "Teddy Roosevelt" Republican,  would have lead the taxpayer revolt against the $700 billion give away to Wall Street, he would have been so far ahead in the polls at present, Obama would have been forced to quietly abandon his campaign and slink back to Chicago from whence he came.  

ex animo


I agree...

...Farrar but I think this is the best we can expect from the GOP. Its the best they've got to give Dave!  They've been taught at the finest universities to "show restrain" and not to be overly aggresive.  So they continue to carry a knife to a gun fight.  No street smarts whatsoever.   We need to stop bashing our heads against the wall & face it.   

Speaking of TR, does someone  need to resuscitate TR's old "Bull Moose Party" in time for the 2010 midterms?   And who better to lead it than one who has actually consumed Moose Burgers?  Can you make a little video w/Sarah gobbling down a Moose Burger? As an ad for the New Bull Moose Party? Ha!    DD

Remembering McCain's motivation

I would agree with the above assessments if it could be proven that McCain's decision to go to DC was ALL political. If that was the case then yes, it may be a blunder that fell through.

But if the decison was also TRULY inspired by his desire to put country first, and answer the call for help from the administration that thought this was a 'must pass' bill, then its very admirable.

I don't like that he inserted himself into the process, but by feelings about it are more respect and admiration than cynicism. And I think many non-politicos may feel the same.

He didn't have to 'win' with the passage of the bill for him to earn some brownie points for at least trying while BO continued with his campaign.

Where did the bounce go?

 I guess that convention bounce didn't work out so well for you. Those were the days, it seemed like such a done deal, didn't it? I guess the old adage that objects in the rear view mirror are closer than they appear.  As a political operative you must know that the election is lost. There is not enough time on the clock to close the gap. Game, Set, Mat....

Once again another leftist saying its over!

Yes lets not even have an election.  Lets coronate Obama right now so he can fix all our problems.

Loss of Biblical Proportions

No, let's have an election.

Disagree on Obama

There's nothing presidential there, and while I have no use for senators or the Senate, Obama doesn't embody anything positively senatorial either.  However, McCain is a perfect example of why senators make terrible presidential candidates and generally terrible presidents.  Collegiality and compromise are the best things one can say about the senate.  Self-aggrandizing, camera-hogging narcissists who are often far from bright is much more accurate a description.  A senatorial career seems forever aimed at attaining the White House while enriching oneself in public office, displaying the leadership and vision required to be an effective president.  In McCain's case, constantly pissing off your own party in the runup to the primaries is not the way to garner the support necessary for the hard run to the finish.  Scratch most conservatives and you'll find a measure of McCain anathema just below the surface.  I'll vote for him but I really can't stand him.

Overall we have 2 of the weakest candidates in a long time, and believe me, Hillary and Edwards were no better.  Four senators or former senators -- none of whom inspires true confidence in his or her voters (Hillary possibly excepted).  For one thing, not one of them appears to have the slightest economics intelligence.  There oughta be a law that senators cannot run for president.  Just sayin'.

One comment on the bounce.  Rush stated days before the RNC that there would be a big bounce for McCain right after, followed by a bigger bounce back by Obama.  As usual, he was right.  The bounces and polls are mostly manipulated by the media organs running them to shape the election and create the news.  Keep in mind that Kerry was quite a percentage ahead of Bush in 2004 right into election day, to where even the exit polls said he'd won.  This is largely why we had such a huge infestation of P.E.S.T. on the left.  Results so often don't validate the polls, which they live by (unless a Republican is ahead and then they discount and ignore).

One side will be suicidal in November, for sure.  I just wouldn't put it past the Democrats to destroy our economy to ensure that they aren't the ones reaching for the cyanide.


Sorry, that was NOT displaying the leadership, etc.

Constant problems with online comments using Vista - ugh!

Oh Johnson, Johnson Springs...

...the one thing that we can credit George W. Bush with is that he has demonstrated/proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that his “New Tone” method of dealing with the democrats DOES NOT WORK!   At least we all should’ve metabolized this knowledge. Allowed it to permeate our thick skulls.   Playing nice with “our friends on the other side of the isle” has gotten us in the mess we’re in, sir!  Its caused us to lose the high ground that we gained back in the ‘80’s.   It is time to go on the offensive, take no prisoners. Marquis of Queensbury rules? Out the window! There is no longer any place for genteel, measured rhetoric in the time in which we live because the modern democrat party has thrown out all rationality.   That may not have been true 20 years ago, sir. A time which you appear to be still dwelling. 

Middle America wants the Republicans that we elected to stop being doormats for the democrats to wipe their soiled feet on. Get some backbone.  "Stop letting them intimidate you!"  Stop compromising.  Defeat the democrats.  Grind them into the ground.  Thats the only "hope" or "change" that will will reverse this accelerated downward spiral we're caught  in.   Respectfully,   Darvin Dowdy   


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