Although it’s hard to read through the confusion at this moment (5 a.m. Friday), so far it looks as though McCain cynically decided to insert himself into the financial crisis negotiations despite understanding zip about any of it so that he could snatch some political benefit and get his asphyxiating campaign off life-support. If it ends up turning the meltdown into a depression. . . oh well!
So much for ‘Country First.’
The situation does lend itself to demagogic grandstanding, and a clever politician could have made serious hay out of it while avoiding blame. McCain, however, has now proven that he is not clever. As a strategist he is, in fact, a total dufus.
My take on his flat-footed manuevering is that he now has the worst of all possible worlds. If the deal is arranged and goes through, which will require that the hold-out Republicans clamber on board and share in the ignominy, McCain will look like an opportunistic politician who held up the train so he could get some camera time.
If the deal collapses, what’s left of Wall Street could quickly follow. Guess who’s going to take the blame for that?
Had McCain taken a no-bail-out position from the start and argued consistently that the financial and political elites were leading the country in the wrong direction, he might have taken a lot of heat, but average citizens who find the rescue of the bankers hard to swallow (i.e. all of us) could have felt he interpreted their doubts.
Instead, he pretended to be all about compromise and unity while doing the opposite. He ran to Washington to throw a spanner into the negotiations, thus emboldening the Ron Paul wing of the Republican Party and queering the deal. The faux-populist conservatives get a couple of days to rail against the hit on taxpayers, but the Democrats aren’t going to be happy about signing on to an unpopular scheme while their adversaries get to play both sides against the middle and run against ‘corrupt Washington politicians’ like McCain pretends to be doing.
What was shaping up as an unpalatable but unavoidable dose of a bitter tonic that everyone could swallow in unison could now turn into a vicious food fight across the aisle while the financial markets gear up for the bloodbath of the century. All because John McCain wants to be the big guy in charge and have everyone suck his dick. Excuse my French.
[Update] An anonymous Democratic staffer quoted by Sam Stein on the Huffington Post put it nicely:
"Bush is no diplomat, but he's Cardinal freaking Richelieu compared to McCain. McCain couldn't negotiate an agreement on dinner among a family of four without making a big drama with himself at the heroic center of it."