Breaking news! John McCain and Barack Obama agree--at least in theory.
In response to the surprising collapse yesterday afternoon on Capitol Hill of the Bush Administration's $700 billion plan to bailout the imploding financial industry, both McCain and Obama called for--wait for it--"bipartisanship." Speaking this morning at an economic roundtable in Des Moines, Iowa, McCain bemoaned "the lack of resolve and bipartisan good will among
members of both parties to fix this problem," reminding legislators that "bipartisanship is a tough
thing--never more so when you’re trying to take necessary but publicly
unpopular action." Meanwhile, Obama told supporters in Reno, Nev. that "while there is plenty of blame to go around...now is the moment for
us to come together and put the fire out." What's more, both candidates floated the exact same proposal--increasing the federal deposit insurance cap from $100,000 to $250,000--as a way to make the package more palatable to wary House Republicans. So helpful!
The only problem? Despite all the bipartisan blather, both candidates have actually spent the past 24 hours jockeying for partisan advantage--especially on the airwaves. The point, of course, is to appear "above the fray" without sacrificing any possible political advantage.
Given that not all of you live in swing states, we thought it'd be worthwhile to harness the power of YouTube and bring the mudslinging to a computer screen near you.
McCain's hypocrisy has been more blatant than Obama's. First, McCain debated himself yesterday on the proper response to the bailout failure, denouncing the blame game precisely one sentence after (ahem) blaming Obama. "Sen. Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process," he said. "Now is not the time to fix the blame, it's time to fix the problem." The trend continued today. A mere 16 minutes after McCain again extolled the virtues of bipartisanship in Iowa, his campaign sent out a new ad, "Rein," that blames the financial meltdown solely on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and claims that "Mr. Obama was notably silent" when McCain pushed for stronger regulation of the mortgage giants. Bill Clinton even makes an unhelpful cameo:
But today's weirdest anti-Obama spot came from the RNC. As McCain took to television to urge the plan's passage and ask that it be referred to a "rescue" rather a "bailout," the GOP decided release an ad... attacking the same plan that McCain so ardently supports. "Wall Street squanders our money and Washington is forced to bail them out with--you guessed it--our money," says the announcer. "Can it get any worse?" The answer, according to the ad: yes it can--as long as America elects Barack Obama, whose "plan... will make the problem worse." Call it a twofer: contradicting McCain's ban on partisanship and his position on the bailout. All in one fell swoop:
Lest the day end on that ambivalent note, however, the McCain has just released yet another ad attacking Obama. This one, called "Strong," slams the Senator for saying yesterday that "we've got the long-term fundamentals that will really make sure this economy grows" after spending a week or so flogging McCain's infamous "the fundamentals of the economy are strong" remark for his own political advantage. Its conclusion doesn't exactly strike a bipartisan note: "Obama's a hypocrite." (Unfortunately for McCain, Obama was referring to the "long-term fundamentals" of his own economic plan--not the fundamentals of the economy itself.) Watch it and weep:
Obama, for his part, is no angel--even if he hasn't proven to be as aggressively hypocritical as McCain. In response to the RNC ad, Obama spox Bill Burton chastised "John McCain’s party" for "demagogu[ing] a rescue plan that he supports in order to score cheap political points." That was appropriate. But Burton proceeded to ratchet up the rancor for no particular reason, implying that McCain is a "dishonest and dishonorable" character who no longer puts "country first"--even though the McCain camp had no involvement with the ad in question, which was produced by the RNC's independent expenditure wing. Meanwhile, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs, appearing today on MSNBC's Morning Joe, called McCain's reaction to the crisis "erratic" and likened him to an unsteady driver--a not-so-subtle dig at the Republican nominee's age. "This guy zigzags," Gibbs said. "Look, if he's driving a car, get off the sidewalk." Finally, Obama himself points a finger squarely at the GOP in "Same Path," his latest TV spot. "The old trickle-down theory has failed us," he says, going on to catalog its alleged failures. The ad is largely substantive--a sober two-minute synopsis of Obama's economic plan. Still, its secondary message--that Republicans alone are responsible for the current crisis--contradicts the candidate's claim, voiced this morning in Reno, that now is not the "time to punish those who set this fire." Never mind that Democrats--bipartisanship alert!--are to blame as well.
Do I expect Obama and McCain to resist poking each other for partisan advantage at a time like this? Of course not. But the next time they reach for their shivs, they could spare us the bipartisan boilerplate. With 35 days until Nov. 4, most voters are smart enough to realize that politics comes first.