Random thoughts on McCain’s stochastic move

I. Why?

A. McCain’s people wanted to change the subject from:

* the fact that Rick Davis was either (1) taking money from Freddie Mac to influence McCain or (2) taking money from Freddie Mac for nothing whatever; and

* the fact that either (1) Davis withheld information from McCain or (2) McCain lied to the press.

B. McCain’s people figure that compressing the number of days when the two campaigns are on the air will tend to blunt Obama’s money advantage.

C. McCain suddenly figured out that he’s under-prepped for the debate and now doesn’t have enough time to bone up, given his performance tomorrow at the Clinton Global Whatever.

D. Having put out perhaps the nastiest ad of the campaign so far, he doesn’t want Obama to have a chance to rebut or the press to have a chance to fact-check.

E. He had to suspend so that the lobbyists who run his campaign could get to Washington and start earning the money the financial-services industry pays them.

F. By injecting himself into the process, McCain can earn some of the money the financial-services industry has been paying the lobbyists who run his campaign.

G. Injecting himself into the process is a good way to show-boat.

H. This is Sarah Palin, Take II: McCain is behind (again), so he’s flailing.

II. Random comments

A. The McCain campaign includes an insult directed at Obama as part of its call for non-partisanship and rising above politics. Typical.

B. And the “offer” is made in Pearl Harbor style. Obama had offered to put out a joint statement of principles, and the two sides were working together on that, as McCain dropped the bombshell.

C. McCain certainly does know how to signal that there’s a crisis. Just by showing up on the floor, he announces that what’s going on is a once-in-a-blue-moon event. Since declaring for the Presidency, he’s missed more votes than any other senator, and many more than Barack Obama, despite the fact that the Democratic primary season ran much longer.

D. Having Obama and McCain as part of the bargaining process probably makes it harder, not easier, to get to a deal.

E. “Stay here until we have a deal” assumes that we need a deal quickly, which (1) may not be true (2) creates pressure to write Paulson a blank check and (3) increases the leverage of whoever can hold the deal hostage to his pet project.

F. Getting Bush involved is an obvious loser. He’s a fool, he’s pig-ignorant about the issues, no one trusts him, he has zero political capital. That’s the reason they fronted Paulson instead.

III. Now what?

A. Reid has the right first response: Really, we can handle this fine without the two Presidential candidates butting in. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

B. I don’t see a problem with Obama agreeing to match McCain day-for-day in the Senate. But I see no reason for him to take down his TV ads.

C. As to the debate, Obama should agree to move it to DC, which means doing without an audience. No postponement.

D. Better yet: agree to switch dates, so Palin and Biden go at it this Friday and the Presidential candidates next week. Of course McCain won’t want that, because they haven’t finished brainwashing Palin, but that’s hardly an excuse he can avow publicly.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com