Our country is facing two serious crises right now, one foreign -- the disastrous war in Iraq -- and one domestic -- a mismanaged economy on the brink of collapse.
This is obviously why the right track/wrong track polling numbers are at such stunning extremes: 22 percent "satisfied" to 72 percent "dissatisfied" in the latest Pew poll, 19 percent/80 percent in Gallup.
John McCain may not have a clue about what"s going on in Iraq, but he's certainly seen those poll numbers. That's why he's suddenly running as fast as he can from the Bush presidency, telling ABC, "The point is, I'm not running on the Bush presidency, I'm running on my own service to the country, my own record in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate and my vision for the future."
Well, he can run, but he can't hide because running on his own record isn't going to put much distance between him and Bush either. That's because it's the policies of McCain and those most closely associated with his campaign that got us into both our foreign and domestic disasters in the first place.
Two important pieces explained the roles played by McCain and his advisors in creating our current foreign and domestic crises.
In Politico, Lisa Lerer detailed how former Senator Phil Gramm, the general co-chair of McCain's campaign and one of his top financial advisors, was the primary force behind the banking deregulation bill in 1999 that helped pave the way for the current subprime meltdown.
Two years after Gramm dutifully did the banks' bidding, he was rewarded, after a quick trip through the revolving door, with the title of vice chairman at UBS and, along with two others, with $750,000 in lobbying fees. UBS investors weren't as lucky as Phil: the bank has written off over $18 billion in subprime loans, while 8,000 UBS employees were laid off.
And McCain has hinted that Gramm might be his Treasury Secretary.
The new McCain has started backing away even from campaign finance reform, his signature maverick issue. And with his buddy Phil best-friend-the-banks-ever-had Gramm right behind him, the idea that McCain is some sort of financial reformer is absurd.
But don't tell that to the media -- it would be like telling an 8 year-old there's no Santa Claus. They worked hard constructing their McCain narrative, and dammit, they're going to keep believing in it.
"Since he began running for president, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has embraced President George W. Bush's foreign policy. He has done so for a simple and understandable reason: it was McCain's policy first."
That's right -- the reason McCain will be a continuation of George Bush's foreign policy is because George Bush was following McCainism all along. Or, as Ackerman puts it: " McCain represents not a break from the Bush Doctrine, but rather its intensification."
Here's John McCain circa 2000:
"I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback'...I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically elected governments."
Now over seventy percent of Americans believe that "rogue state rollback" has not worked out that well.
McCain, of course, sees the same numbers. So he's careful to throw in a few qualifiers for the media -- the equivalent of dangling keys in front of them -- as he did in a foreign policy speech last week. Did it work? Sadly, all too well.
As Ackerman notes, CNN's Dana Bash called it a world view "quite different from the president's." And Gail Collins in the New York Times said that McCain "broke dramatically with the administration."
What was this "dramatic break?" That we should "listen to the views" of our allies.
Yeah, sure, we should "listen" to them. And after they say they vehemently disagree with us, as they surely will (good luck getting a coalition together for that invasion of Iran), what then?
Much was -- rightly -- made last week of McCain's "McCain Moment" which shone a spotlight on how clueless he is about the region. But given McCain's foreign policy views, it's hard to know whether we should be more afraid when he's confused and clueless or when he's thinking clearly and coherently.