- The Washington Times
Friday, September 26, 2008


Now is the time for every good man to come to the aid of the country. The economy’s teetering on the edge of an abyss of unknown depth, Democrats and Republicans are wrestling with the devils of banking and the demons of high finance (elbowing each other for partisan advantage), and nobody has a clue about what, exactly, to do about the abyss. At least not a clue worth $700 billion.

John McCain suspends his campaign to hie to Washington to join the wrestling match, vowing to stay until there’s an agreement if not necessarily a solution, and invites his presidential rival to join him. This is the gesture the naive among us would have expected from Barack Obama, if only he had thought of it first.

The anointed One, who has bent our sore ears for two years about how important it is to put partisanship aside and “reach across the aisle” to get things done on his terms, is eager only to vote “present,” that wonderful rabbit hole of delay, evasion and avoidance that congressmen reserve for themselves. He’s not experienced in many things but he’s got a lot of experience in voting “present” when it’s decision time. He thinks that when the going gets tough, the tough get going, this time to the land of cotton where old times there are trying to be forgotten, to talk about foreign affairs. If he can’t be coaxed to do the right thing John McCain should send Sarah Palin to Mississippi. They’re evenly matched. The governor lives next door to Vladimir Putin and the senator once bravely ordered piroshki and borscht at the old Russian Tea Room.

John McCain, so sniffs the mainstream media, the bloggers and the Obama handlers, is trying to run from a fight because his poll numbers are tanking (though Gallup’s daily tracking poll now finds the race dead-even again) and he’s desperate for a gimmick. Rep. Barney Frank, who as the congressional errand boy for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was an enabler of this mess, sneers that the McCain ploy is “the longest Hail Mary in the history of hails and Marys.” But who’s desperate? The Obama camp dispatched Rep. Alcee Hastings, who was impeached and thrown off the federal bench for taking a $150,000 bribe to go easy on a couple of racketeers, to inject a little race baiting into their faltering campaign in Florida. “If Sarah Palin isn’t enough of a reason for you to get over whatever your problem is with Barack Obama,” the black congressman told a group of retired Jews, “then you damn well better pay attention. Anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t [sic] care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks.” It was the most overt use of hate speech yet.

Bill Clinton, continuing to give Barack Obama the help the nominee deserves, gets John McCain’s point. “We know he didn’t do it because he’s afraid, because Senator McCain wanted more debates,” he told ABC News. “You can put [the debate] off for a few days [but] the problem is that it’s hard to reschedule these things. I presume he did it in good faith since I know he wanted - I remember he asked for more debates to go around the country - and so I don’t think we ought to overly parse that.” He even had a few kind words for George W. “I thought his [Wednesday night speech] was the clearest statement of why we’re in the fix we’re in.”

If the debate goes on Friday night in Oxford he thinks the two candidates should extend the debate beyond foreign affairs because foreign affairs are issues of national security, where John McCain excels and where Barack Obama hardly knows what a foreign affair is. Bubba’s praise for Sen. McCain, however faint, follows Joe Biden’s rebuke of the Obama television commercials mocking the senator’s physical disabilities acquired at the Hanoi Hilton. (The McCain headquarters might send Bubba a couple of McCain-Palin bumper stickers, with one for Hillary, who may have the biggest stake of all in this campaign.)

The anointed One finally got to Washington Thursday, fearful of getting within range of the cameras lest he appear to have walked into a trap of unwanted perceptions, and accepted George W.’s invitation to sit down with him and John McCain at the White House. Dealing with the unexpected is uncharted territory for Mr. Obama, with no maps, no precedents, no teleprompter and no occasion to make a speech.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.

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