Last week was not a good week for Sen. John McCain. It began on Monday, amid a 500+ point stock market drop and news of Lehman Brothers' and Merrill Lynch's bankruptcies, when the curmudgeonly 72-year-old Republican presidential nominee incredibly declared that "the fundamentals of the economy are strong." "
Exactly one week later, on NBC's "Today" show, McCain said, "We are in the most serious crisis since World War II."
What happened in-between was the McCain camp's realization that, in a time of great national crisis, their candidate demonstrated a glaring and embarrassing lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation, and an inexcusable disconnect with the financial pain and suffering of Mr. and Mrs. Average American (an interesting side note is the Newsweek report issued Monday that the McCains own a total of 13 cars--two of which are foreign--while "the elitist" Sen. Barack Obama owns just one...a Ford hybrid).
The meltdown on Wall Street last week was not the only one. We got a glimpse of "President McCain" under fire, and man, it wasn't pretty. What came into question was McCain's temperament, judgement and resolve, and what effect he could or would have on the American people in times of crisis. In his first real test, he failed miserably. In various press conferences and campaign speeches, he came off testy, agitated and confused. He was quick to point fingers and assign blame, first calling for the baseless firing of SEC Chairman Chris Cox, and then in another angry, befuddled moment saying the head of the "FEC" (Federal Election Commission) should be canned. Hey Gramps, why stop there? Let's also dump the head of the EEC (European Economic Community), the CEC (Council for Exceptional Children) and the OEC (Oregon Environmental Council). I hate to say it, but are we starting to see what it means to be a 72-year-old politician in the line of fire? Is this a scary foreshadowing of things to come should McCain win in November and become the oldest president in U.S. history? I'm sorry, but I want my president lucid.
The last thing a U.S. president should do when tragedy or crisis strikes is to play the blame game. It does nothing to solve the problem, it heightens the tension and fans the flames, fails to reassure and calm a worried public, and is anything but presidential. And that's exactly what we got from "President McCain."
Additionally, there was the endless barrage of lies and deception coming from the GOP hopeful. His repeated attempts to attribute Wall Street's mess to Obama was counter-productive and disingenuous. Mind you, this is the same Obama who's been accused by McCain of being unfit for office because he's got little Washington experience, yet who's apparently been around D.C. long enough to be responsible for single-handedly causing the financial crisis.
Poor McCain. When he's not putting his own foot in his mouth he's forced to ingest the smelly appendages of others...like his former disgraced economic surrogates Phil Gramm and Carly Fiorina. Gramm came under fire months ago for accusing Americans of "whining" about the "mental recession" they've been imagining in their overreacting heads. Then last week Fiorina, the former embattled Hewlett-Packard CEO, informed the media that her boss wasn't qualified to run a major U.S. corporation like HP. His choice of teammates certainly doesn't demonstrate the kind of sound judgment we'd expect from someone who could be assembling a presidential cabinet in just a few short months.
McCain's words and actions last week were those of a panicked, desperate warrior who's recklessly spraying his last rounds of ammo in every direction hoping he'll take out a bunch of enemy fighters and somehow find himself the victor. It was, and continues to be, painful to watch. His body tenses stiffly, his neck drops into his shoulders like a turtle, he snarls and completely loses his humor. He becomes the temperamental John McCain that, to many, is legendary in Washington, even among his Republican peers.
John McCain is an angry man, and we got to see that last week. It was also evident the prior week during what was his toughest interview to-date, which came from the fiery ladies of ABC's The View. The tag-team of Barbara Walters and Joy Behar had the crusty candidate on the ropes several times, and he appeared literally seconds away from snapping.
Now in this same week, Obama appeared very presidential. He was a calming, assuring presence in a sea of economic madness. He was poised, confident and never lost his cool. And while McCain's been getting his advice from controversial buffoons like Gramm and Fiorina, Obama's surrounded himself with highly-respected financial gurus like former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and former Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. He's a brilliant strategist who thinks the issues through and has an appreciation for the details and nuances of each.
To be sure, America needs a president who provides leadership, inspiration and a steady hand under pressure. America does not need another cocky, arrogant, petulant, impulsive, derisive, insecure, shoot-first-ask-questions-later president with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.