re: the economic situation possibly favoring McCain because trying times cause us to look backward (i.e., to what has always worked in the past) and not forward into the unknown and risky. I think I have to say that this is a tricky one to play but it’s probably also the only play that could work. It may help that it actually happens to be good counsel for people willing to listen . . . but perceptions will count for more than truth in an election.
But Lawler is right that McCain has an advantage (if he can play it right) in that it appears that the origin of our economic woes may have something in common with Barack Obama (and I don’t just mean that Dems seem to be very closely tied to the Freddie and Fannie collapse).
Before I begin, my usual disclaimer when the topic is money, math or economics: I am--by no means--anything like an expert on this kind of thing so I’m speaking mainly to public perceptions and what I have been able to glean from my own poor attempts to understand the origins of this mess as an investor and home owner. To put it crudely, the mortgage meltdown appears to have been caused by a "new" idea in the world of finance. This idea of packaging bad loans along with good loans and, thereby, masking their otherwise poor ratings smacks of the same kind of arrogant young punk mentality that has, quite effectively, been pegged on Obama in the last few months. Further, I know that my in-laws and others of their (Depression baby) generation have been shaking their heads in disbelief as they have watched the young people around them (not us) "leverage" themselves right into bankruptcy--buying bigger homes than they need and expensive new cars every few years--believing that they could stay ahead of the curve forever because their home values were climbing so dramatically.
It may be a fair criticism of some of these older folks to say that their caution (and lack of internet savvy, to borrow from Obama’s playbook) is overmuch and that a little more openness to some new ideas might have given them more of a cushion for the coming tough times. But it has to be said that the reason the openness to new modes might have yielded fairer results with them is probably because they are already so well grounded in sounder (and old) ideas about wealth, how to create it and, more important, how to maintain it. There is, for example, certainly something to be said for the kind of prudence and fortitude that causes one to curb his appetites, live within his means, and stick to the tried and true modes of earning and saving for the good things that one wants. This is good advice, of course, because we can’t all have rich (if questionable) friends buy lots and sell them to us at below market value and at favorable rates.
While Republicans certainly do not have anything like a monopoly on this older, more sensible approach to wealth (greed is a universal part of the human condition) it is undeniably true (again, in public perception) that Republicans, generally, have done a better job of cultivating a respect for the past and for the virtues that made our past admirable, while Democrats have a reputation for scorning the past for both its methods and its admirability.
Just as I think there may be a lot of young guns looking to find comfort (and forgiving
loans gifts) from an older and possibly wiser generation, it may be the case that we see more voters looking toward the candidate who more closely exemplifies that older ethic. Now is not a good time to gamble on a glittering possibility that may only be a mirage. Everything Obama says he wants is expensive. That will be hard to miss in the debates.
McCain should emphasize his record not only of being tough (his honor) but also of being sensible (his competence). Lawler is right about that. But he also has to be careful about putting us to sleep with arcane detail and engaging Obama in a pissing match of point and counterpoint in the debate. It looks like BS when they do this and BS is Obama’s forte. McCain can take the risk of oversimplifying the thing if he can do it forcefully and make some headway in making it more clear to voters. And, besides, there’s almost always a simpler explanation for why things have gone wrong than the wonks (who depend upon your mystification) would have you believe.
In addition, McCain should play up to his "Country First" theme by inspiring us to live up to the virtues that made our country strong (both martially and fiscally) and insist--emphatically, please--that we can and will achieve even higher levels of strength by adhering to the same virtues that made us strong in the first place. Perhaps we have taken some wrong turns in our haste to improve ourselves . . . but we can, and will set things aright. This is nose to the grindstone time . . . "getting back to basics" is a great way of putting it. Faith in our people’s capacities and in their patient forbearance through a difficult time (which, of course, will require serious cheerleading rather than obnoxious finger-wagging and is why Hillary Clinton is no where to be found) is needed much more than the promises of a dismissive, too-eager to prove himself "smarter-than-everybody-else-in-the-room," and amateur snake-oil salesman. At least, that’s how I might put it if I were McCain (maybe striking that last bit about the snake-oil salesman . . . maybe.)