What game is John McCain playing at here? One thing is clear--he doesn't have a real sense of what's going on, and he has surrounded himself with a campaign staff that doesn't care what happens to the economic system as long as John McCain wins the news cycle. Notice that I didn't say "wins the election." That's because his people aren't looking that far ahead. They worry about one news cycle at a time, and based on the polls for the last week, that's not really working all that well.

Take, for instance, this story about the current Congressional negotiations about the bailout plan.

Senator John McCain had intended to ride back into Washington on Thursday as a leader who had put aside presidential politics to help broker a solution to the financial crisis. Instead he found himself in the midst of a remarkable partisan showdown, lacking a clear public message for how to bring it to an end.

At the bipartisan White House meeting that Mr. McCain had called for a day earlier, he sat silently for more than 40 minutes, more observer than leader, and then offered only a vague sense of where he stood, said people in the meeting.
That's a clear indication that McCain really doesn't understand what's going on here. Of course, neither do I, but I'm not running for President, and I'm not claiming to have the answers. All I know is that Paul Krugman is worried, but that he didn't like the original plan, and I trust him.

But McCain's actions look like those of a person who felt like he could make a difference with the force of his personality, and then discovered that the problem was bigger than that. Factor in that he's way out of his element--the basis of this discussion is that the government has to get involved, and McCain has always been a firm opponent of regulation--and you get the reaction seen above: no clear public message and no questions to ask in a meeting.

It's not a surprise that McCain is ill-prepared for this discussion--he's ill-prepared for most policy discussions. He's gotten as far as he has by being a sort of anti-wonk, a guy who distills everything down to clich├ęs about "straight talk" and maverickyness, but never really offers much in the way of detail, and his barbecue buddies in the media have gone along with it. I suspect McCain's strong stance on deregulation is based on the fact that it's easier to be against all rules than it is to be for some of them. You don't have to justify your opinion if you're just against regulation. If you're for some regulation, you have to be able to argue detail--why this regulation and not another? McCain just can't do that, because he doesn't know.

No wonder he wants to postpone the debate. His handlers have to know that no matter whether or not the main subject of debate is supposed to be foreign policy, questions about the economic crisis will come up, and that McCain won't be able to give intelligible answers, because "letting the markets work" isn't going to fly this time.

Here's the Genius Ten, a modified version of the Random Ten: take the next song to pop up on your party shuffle and create a Genius playlist from it, then post the first ten songs. No hiding the Johnny Hates Jazz.
Authority Song: John Cougar Mellencamp
Genius Ten:
1. She's a Beauty--The Tubes
2. Stand--R.E.M.
3. Our Lips Are Sealed--The Go Go's
4. Roll With It--Steve Winwood
5. Squeeze Box--The Who
6. Long Cool Woman In a Black Dress--The Hollies
7. Walk of Life--Dire Straits
8. Shock the Monkey--Peter Gabriel
9. Hungry Heart--Bruce Springsteen
10. Lookin' Out My Back Door--Creedence Clearwater Revival
I think I'm going back to the Random Ten next week. This just isn't as interesting to me. Leave your lists in the comments.

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