Bailing out on the bailout
Here’s a sentence from the campaign trail:
Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process.”
And here’s another sentence from the campaign trail:
“Now is not the time to fix the blame, it’s time to fix the problem.”
Two very different approaches, wouldn’t you say?
No real surprise there: When confusion reigns, it pours—and in the first few hours after the House of Representatives’ stunning defeat of the economic rescue plan, there was a torrent of confusion.
Still, two very different reactions. One trying to lay blame, the other seemingly opting for the high road.
So how surprised would you be to learn that both these sentences were uttered Monday afternoon in the very same town—West Des Moines, Iowa—and in the very same setting?
Maybe a little bit surprised, you’re thinking. But hey, it happens. You put enough politicians in front of a microphone, and they’re going to say some things that conflict with one another. Everybody’s entitled to his own opinion, after all, even if that opinion differs 180 degrees from somebody else’s opinion.
So how surprised would you be to learn that both these sentences were uttered not just on the same day, in the same town, and in the same setting—but by the very same person?
Now, that would be peculiar, you’re thinking. You’d already figured the first speaker as somebody connected with the McCain campaign. Somebody trying to shift the spotlight somewhere else—anywhere else—after their own candidate’s high-profile, high-drama, low-success effort at playing the savior. Standard campaign stuff: It’s the other guy’s fault.
But the second speaker—the one who urged people to stay focused on the problem at hand, and not on recriminations—you’d figured that one as somebody else altogether. Maybe somebody from the Bush administration, trying to climb out of the rubble for one more attempt. Or maybe just some momentarily high-minded observer or official, from either party, hoping against hope to keep the chance of further negotiations alive.
Well, you’re half right anyway—the first speaker is somebody connected with the McCain campaign. In fact, it’s the candidate himself.
Yes indeed: It was John McCain his very own self who charged that “Senator Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process.”
But it was also John McCain who claimed that “Now is not the time to fix the blame, it’s time to fix the problem.”
There’s an explanation, you’re thinking. A hectic day like Monday was, after a hectic week of campaigning and debating and riding to the rescue, and John McCain getting on in years. He might have just forgotten that he’d said something very different at some earlier point in his speech.
So how surprised would you be to learn that these were two consecutive sentences?
Weird, but true: The “Let’s blame Obama” sentence came immediately before the “Let’s not play the blame game” sentence! There wasn’t a single word in between the two. There was no burst of applause, not even a sip of water, to disrupt John McCain’s train of thought.
He derailed all by himself.
He said the first sentence, and then he said the second, totally contradictory, sentence. A mental lapse? A cheap shot?
Call it 180 degrees of McCain.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.