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Eric Schmeltzer Headshot

McCain's Economic Freakout vs. Obama's Measured Reponse

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They say how you campaign is how you'd govern. If that's true, a President John McCain would become easily frustrated from criticism during an economic collapse, and react with the "shoot first, ask questions later" temperament that we've all become accustomed to. Oh yeah, and he might cause a depression.

Watching the past couple of days of the candidates' responses to what's happening on Wall Street, there are two very contrasting styles. Forget all the back and forth between the candidates, which is going to happen in a campaign, and look at how they address the Wall Street crisis itself.

Barack Obama has displayed a pretty cool, calm, and consistent response to it all - focusing first and foremost on the need to do everything to settle and stabilize Wall Street ASAP. He's presented a general framework for long-term reforms, but withheld any specifics, saying we need to see what happens when the dust settles. Maybe that's the truth. But, what also is true is that now is not the time to feed into Wall Street jitters by proposing specific sweeping changes that just make the future even more uncertain. Maybe it doesn't make for exciting politics, or feed those who like some red-meat rhetoric, but it certainly lends itself to settling down the financial market, so we can avoid a depression.

On the other hand, you have John McCain. In the wake of the collapse, McCain came out with his proposal - a 9/11 type commission to study what happened and report back. It probably wasn't the best of responses, but at least it wasn't rash. Very un-McCain.

That's until it was mocked.

That's when old-school "McNasty" kicked in. About a day later, what was his answer? Fire SEC Chairman Chris Cox (even though the President can't do that). According to McCain, "If I were President today, I would fire him."

Boy, that would be a great signal to send to Wall Street. In the middle of the biggest financial crisis we've had in decades, McCain would dump the SEC Chair, leaving the seat to a caretaker until he could nominate and get confirmed a new one. Yeah, because THAT wouldn't freak the entire market the F out, by sending the signal that the Federal Government was in complete panic mode. I mean, this is the same Wall Street that goes into freefall when the Fed Chairman even whispers the word "recession."

But, McCain didn't care. Shoot first, deal with the fallout later. Just working for a war in Iraq while the Trade Center was still smoldering from the attacks that came from Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Maybe someone talked McCain down, because today, he focused not on firings, but on his proposed long-term fix. Now, either his 9/11-style commission had the shortest study ever, or he dumped that idea completely, put firings on the side, and decided it was time to put forth a long-term plan before we even get out of the immediate crisis. Again, not that long-term plans don't need to be formulated, but you don't put the cart before the horse. As president, you want to get out of this crisis first, see what the lay of the land is, and then develop your specific plan. So, a little less crazy than yesterday, but still not very responsible.

So, let's review this week in Wall Street in crisis:

Obama: Calm, measured, put forth principles, but did not get in the way of the Fed and Treasury as they tried to keep the market from complete meltdown, and an almost guaranteed depression.

McCain: One week, three different answers to the crisis, at least one of which could have triggered even more panic in the financial sector.

Which one do you want sitting in the Oval Office?