The Gambler, Part II


It was Kenny Rogers who sang, “You have to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em.” Last week, I described some of John McCain’s moves throughout his career as those of a gambler. The choice of Sarah Palin ranks as one of those audacious and risky moves—and it has paid off to the extent that McCain has successfully re-energized the Republican base. The Palin effect may be subsiding but, without her, McCain would likely have been in a more difficult position. We saw the gambler’s instinct emerging again yesterday when he suspended his campaign and requested a postponement of the first candidates’ debate. The gambler is normally one who calculates his risks and acts in a strategic manner to increase his gain and reduce his losses. Instinct is important to the gambler, but knowledge of the game is absolutely essential. Is McCain really gambling in this case, or is he just being tactical, impulsive, and, to some degree, desperate?

The joint statement by both candidates was a laudable initiative under the present circumstances. Listening to George W. Bush’s address last night, in which he used words like “panic,” “deep recession,” “high unemployment,” “dangerous state,” was probably enough to send ordinary citizens running to the nearest ATM. When you consider how his statements over the past year have been consistently reassuring and optimistic, and add in McCain’s recent claim that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong,” you have to wonder whether these guys know what they are talking about or whether they are just improvising. Apparently, only a bipartisan effort can extricate America from the verge of financial collapse—at least, that’s what we are told. McCain has offered to step away from the campaign to register his vote in favor the bailout plan, but whether America’s democratic process is best served by avoiding an open debate on issues affecting the future of the country remains to be seen. Obama’s point that a president must be able to deal with more than one issue at a time is a legitimate one. Both Obama and McCain can always dictate their wishes to their respective party leaders and find an appropriate moment over the weekend to register their vote.

It seems that McCain’s maverick qualities, which have endeared him to so many electors in the past, may now be doing him a disservice. He does not appear to have the steady hand required nor the depth of knowledge expected, and his performance over the last two weeks reinforces that perception. Is he avoiding the debate tomorrow night because he really believes he can make a difference on the floor of the Senate? Or is he trying to avoid a debate at a time when Republicans are clearly on the defensive and he faces the embarrassing revelation that his campaign manager, Rick Davis, owns a firm that was lobbying on behalf of Freddie Mac? (McCain might also be reluctant to explain how fired Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina—she of the $45 million golden parachute—is now a principal advisor to him on economic matters, serving alongside Washington’s main deregulator, Phil Gramm, who ran for President in 1996 with McCain serving as his campaign chairman.)

It appears that McCain’s move to suspend his campaign says more about his temperament than it does about the gravity of the crisis. McCain has courage in spades, there is no doubt. But temperament and judgment are what is needed in times of crises. Earlier this week, respected conservative columnist George Will expressed his concerns about the McCain temperament. Yesterday, we were treated to an illustration of it—and it was far from reassuring.


The Gambler, Part II

  1. I’m not usually much for conspiracies, but given the track record of the Rove-Cheney administration, can we put it past the Republicans to set up a poison pill to prevent a takeover?

    Flush the treasury to such a degree that Obama will be handcuffed and unable to either implement his agenda or win a second term in the White House?

    I’m just saying that this sudden about face on the brink of an election looks a lot like a strategy cooked up in an undisclosed location.

  2. “The joint statement by both candidates was a laudable initiative under the present circumstances.”

    Gambler is one way to put it but I would argue ‘moronic’ is a better choice. Bi-partisanship sounds nice and all but McCain’s base hates it unless it’s the other side coming to them. A terrible policy, with a ‘bi-partisan’ cherry on top, is still a dire policy.

    I think McCain has screwed up in numerous ways the past two weeks. Last week he seemed to be changing his mind hourly and made Obama seem presidential, which takes a lot of work but he managed it.

    Suggesting Cuomo as SEC chief was about the stupidest thing he could have done. And now he’s coming across as someone who’s willing to set aside his principles, conservatism, in order to get a deal done in Congress.

    I think the last two weeks McCain has managed to wipeout the goodwill that base felt for him after he announced Palin and now they are remembering why they hated McCain in the first place. McCain is going to look like a clown if he can’t get Repubs in Congress to follow his lead and right now it’s far from a sure thing that he can.

    “Or is he trying to avoid a debate at a time when Republicans are clearly on the defensive and he faces the embarrassing revelation that his campaign manager, Rick Davis, owns a firm that was lobbying on behalf of Freddie Mac?”

    The Dems and Obama are up to their eyeballs with Freddie/Fannie money as well so there is plenty of accusations to leveled by both sides. Of the 354 congressmen/women to receive money from those two orgs since 1989, Dodd and Obama are tops in the chart of who took the most and Obama has only been there a few years. Obama also has ties with Raines and Johnson who were connected with Fannie/Freddie.

  3. Agree with TobyornotToby. It’s a rolling coup. 9/11 and wars weren’t enough; maybe hyperinflation will do the trick.

    According to the US Army Times, beginning in October an active unit will be stationed inside the United States for the first time — a combat team that has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq The paper says the unit may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control.

    It will be interesting to see whether Rove/Cheney, with their dictatorial powers, will feel the need to go through the charade of an election at all.

  4. Politics of desperation seems to be the strategy of the past few weeks for the McCain campaign and the Republican Party as a whole.

    Many right wing advocates such as Carl Rove and the the New York Times have criticized McCain, and even President George Bush aligned some of his policies closer to Obama when it comes to the negociation of a withdrawal timetable for Iraq and having talks with the Iranians.

    A political move?

  5. Jody: Preparations for Rove’s “October Surprise”, I wonder? I used to entertain, mostly as a dark laugh, the idea that Bush et al would cook up something to “suspend” the elections. I never thought he’d actually have the cojones to attempt it.

    I’m starting to wonder.

  6. T. Thwim: I guess timing is everything. When your guy’s poll numbers are starting to slide in spite of racism and you’ve already done all you can to suppress/steal votes, maybe then you roll out the next product. An insider has already admitted that they’d been sitting on the bailout plan for months. Extra points if you can out-Rove Rove!

  7. McCain to the rescue! I love that he rushed back to Washington to “save the economy”,as he told MCCain. Until last week, I really felt he would squeak out a victory- but today I agree with John, he’s scrambling and his decision to suspend his campaign does bring his judgment into question. What exactly is he thinking? Looks like he is self-destructing….a little like the American economy…

  8. Wow, who would even want the presidency now? I fear Obama will inherit this mess and then the Republicans will blame him for it….

  9. I might be wrong but I think that the Republican camp was getting nervous at the thought of Biden debating Palin soon. If the presidential debate would be postponed, then the vice-presidential could be as well, giving Palin more time to prepare. Once again i could be totally off mark.

    I’m actually really excited about the vice-presidential debate although I don’t see how Palin could walk out a winner from that one. She can barely respond to Katie Couric and Charlie Gibson… Biden will chew her out…He’s going to have to be careful though to not make her look too bad and not appear to be a douch because that might make her appear more simple and human and in touch with the population to certain emotional voters…

  10. Farley: I think you’re right. McCain wanted to postpone the presidential debate to the veep date, leaving the second debate hanging. Maybe hoping that events might conspire to cancel it altogether. Palin would have to be audio-wired to a live prompter to get through it. (Like GWB was vs. Kerry; remember the lump between his shoulders?)

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