You'd expect a Presidential candidate would exercise a number of qualities, including the ability to put matters into their proper perspective and to not get swept up in the excitement of the moment. Controlling his emotions should be a quality that John McCain is striving to exhibit these days, as the nation looks towards Obama and McCain for their leadership abilities in a time of crisis.
Instead, John McCain is sounding more and more panicked every day. There is a panicked sense of urgency and intensity that may just be campaign theatrics, or may be revealing something deeper, and far more disturbing.
Case in point, the economic crisis on Wall Street. Yes, it's a crisis, but let's maintain some perspective here...
John McCain seriously sharpens his rhetoric on the economy.[...]
So here's what he said on NBC's "Today" show this [Monday] morning, when discussing the turmoil roiling the nation's financial system: "We are in the most serious crisis since World War II."
Upon reflection, he may have wanted to add the word "economic" between "serious" and "crisis." Offhand, we'd guess that quite a few historians would rate the decision by China to engage in the Korean War, the face-off with the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as worthy competitors on a list of highly challenging moments since 1945.
Does John McCain seriously believe this is the greatest crisis since World War II?
In addition to the examples cited above, what about the withdrawal conundrum over Vietnam? The more recent nuclear showdown with North Korea? On an economic front, some might say the recession, skyrocketing inflation and soaring interest rates of the mid-1970s would overshadow today's crisis in terms of its impact on everyday Americans.
Do you think John McCain is just engaging in a bit of campaign hyperbole? I'd dispute that. There is a serious context here, and in addressing the nation as he did Senator John McCain's remarks would only serve to increase the panic among concerned citizens. He's smarter than that -- I thought he was, anyway...
Does he not have the perspective to understand the power of his words? Or is he so involved in the campaign moment that he just doesn't care about the weight of his words and their effect on our nation?
That panicked, emotional, caught-up-in-the-moment behavior is the exact opposite of what we expect from our Presidents. We expect the President to maintain a calm, controlled perspective on matters, and to not get swept up in panic. A calm hand guiding our ship through rough waters....
McCain failed this test, miserably.
Update: I just came across George Will's column, titled "McCain Loses His Head," in this morning's Washington Post.
Under the pressure of the financial crisis, one presidential candidate is behaving like a flustered rookie playing in a league too high. It is not Barack Obama.
Channeling his inner Queen of Hearts, John McCain furiously, and apparently without even looking around at facts, said Chris Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, should be decapitated. This childish reflex provoked the Wall Street Journal to editorialize that "McCain untethered" -- disconnected from knowledge and principle -- had made a "false and deeply unfair" attack on Cox that was "unpresidential" and demonstrated that McCain "doesn't understand what's happening on Wall Street any better than Barack Obama does." [...]
Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.
It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?
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