Screw the Bastards or Do Something?
And Sarah Palin gets flustered by Katie Couric?
Politico reports that John McCain was a little hasty to take credit for the bailout package:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his top aides took credit for building a winning bailout coalition – hours before the vote failed and stocks tanked. The rush to claim he had engineered a victory now looks like a strategic blunder that will prolong the McCain’s campaign’s difficulty in finding a winning message on the economy.In two very long weeks, John McCain has declared that the economy's fundamentals are sound, said that as president he would fire SEC chairman Christopher Cox when he couldn't, repeated his assertion that markets don't need more regulatory oversight, agreed that the bailout requires more oversight, returned to the idea of diverting Social Security funds into private investment accounts, issued a joint statement on the bailout with Barack Obama, announced he was suspending campaigning until further notice and would skip the first debate, sat silently in the White House meeting while the deal over the bailout fell apart, decided he would attend the debate after all, headed out on the campaign trail to take credit for the deal before it failed, and then tried to paint Barack Obama as inconsistent.
If John McCain and Congress seem unsure about what to do, it's because the country is unsure. Most people I know are struggling with two conflicting impulses: screw the bastards and do something. The challenge for Congress is to master—or at least tame—the impulse to screw the bastards just enough to find a way to do something effective.
These conflicting impulses play out differently at different political levels. Members of Congress have been hearing screw the bastards by a margin of 100 to one. But candidates for president can't simply say screw 'em; they're expected to look like they can lead, which is why McCain's erratic campaigning and failure to rescue the rescue package are hurting his campaign so badly. A good campaign has a theme, or at least a set of consistent messages. John McCain's campaign is largely about John McCain himself—and he is looking anything but consistent.
As for Sarah Palin, Atrios writes that maybe she should suspend campaigning. Her novelty act of a campaign played well for a couple of weeks until events forced the country to think about the need for actual governing.
She certainly fits the mold of a screw the bastards politician. For that matter, so does McCain to a certain extent. It strikes me that he's running as a Reagan revolutionary—cut taxes, cut spending, stand up to the bad guys. The problem is that the Reagan revolution happened 28 years ago. In a way, he really is fighting the last war.