The present Congress is not exemplary. Neither is the present executive branch. However, they are the only ones we have, and they are the ones which can deal now with the current economic difficulties; they are the only bodies with the legal ability to do so.
The Presidential debate scheduled for 26 September is important. Should Senators McCain and Obama agree to delay it briefly so they can go do their jobs as U.S. Senators? Senator McCain has proposed a delay, Senator Obama has rejected it. Senator McCain has called for an hiatus on political ads, Senator Obama has rejected that. Senator Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, has suggested that Senator McCain "not come back" for the Senate deliberations.
I am convinced that Senators McCain and Obama should return to Washington for the Senate deliberations. True, the TV networks and various cable channels would be inconvenienced. They would have to change their schedules. Too damn bad. Perhaps they could present re-runs of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. More likely, they would, each with its own biases and each in its own way, comment on what the various factions and the administration are proposing to do about the economy, where the disagreements lie, along with their own op-ed analyses of what they (experts that they are) think should be done. That might be an entertaining distraction. Perhaps that's what we need, but I don't think so.
The appropriate time for recriminations about whose fault the mess may be is later. Little good would come from debating whether it is the fault of Senator Obama or Senator McCain or their respective parties. Later, perhaps in a week, but not now; not until after a real attempt to assuage the crisis has been made.
The debate scheduled for Friday would take only an hour or so. However, preparation would take much longer, as anyone who has ever taken a high school or college examination and hoped to do well should know. That time could be far better spent on (hopefully) bipartisan efforts to deal with the financial mess in which the country finds itself.
Why did Senator McCain suggest postponement of the debate and Senator Obama insist that it go forward as scheduled? I am no mind reader, and don't know. Perhaps Senator McCain wants, for purely political advantage, to appear (only facially) as a statesman-like national leader. Perhaps Senator Obama doesn't want to show up and vote "present" and decline responsibility for a "yea" or "nea" vote. It is just possible that were they both to do the jobs as senators to which they were elected, rather than pursue as their sole focus the securing of new and more powerful jobs, the country might profit. Since both claim to want to be bipartisan, a few day's postponement of the debate might give us a glimpse as to whether either actually wants to be bipartisan and actually to participate in such a process, or merely appear to be and do so while castigating others. It is far easier to do the latter. Castigation is easy and comes in sound bites; active participating in producing acceptable results is harder and more useful. It does not come in sound bites. It requires time, thought and consultation.
One thing the country can't afford is to have a Congressional stalemate with nothing to follow except a recess. Either Senator Obama or Senator McCain will be the next President. For either to decline to participate, fully, in the very important decision making process, with a mantle of leadership, would be very unfortunate.
The recriminations are coming and will continue to come. They can wait. They will not be a decent substitute for participation, now, in what we like to call the democratic process.
I hope that Senators Obama and McCain will come to an agreement about postponing the debate. Should they fail to do so, perhaps Senator Obama will appear and point to Senator McCain's empty chair, for all the good it will do. It will do him very little. I think that would probably be the very worst mistake of his campaign. Perhaps he could use his solo appearance on television, as FDR is said to have done during the market collapse (in 1929), to calm the masses. That might be Senator Biden's advice. I rather hope that Senator Obama rejects it.Powered by Sidelines