Why The Candidates Avoid Talking About The Financial Crisis
In the first Presidential debate last Friday, it seemed that both candidates sought to avoid an argument over the unfolding financial crisis. McCain simply avoided answering the economic questions asked of him, and answered unasked questions instead, about earmarks/spending, that did him little good. The $700 billion figure is an iceberg moving through our national consciousness, and $18 billion is, comparatively speaking, a snowball. And Obama kept his focus on tying McCain to Bush.
What was the persuasive purpose of this? Why avoid such an obvious problem that could illustrate real leadership, and such an obviously important area of real debate? It may still happen in the final debate, but I think the reason it didn’t turn into a brawl at this point is that in a finger pointing game, there’d be no end to it.
Instead, both candidates want you to consider that this election is about running against the entire system. One claims to be the insider who has operated like an outsider and knows how to change it, the other an outsider who has been inside just long enough to know how to change it.
McCain’s problem is that he can’t go near the financial crisis without someone pointing out how closely tied he is to it. So all that’s left to him is to shake your confidence in his opponent, get you to be afraid of his youth and inexperience, and raise concerns about your pocketbook (which is being emptied as we speak.)
Here’s an interesting video that highlights just how bad a problem McCain has in this area.
Obama doesn’t need to get into all the specifics of this meltdown. He only needs to succeed at tying McCain to Bush.
That’s because a majority of Americans believe that
1. Thanks to Bush, we’ve been pouring our national youth and treasure into Iraq instead of addressing problems at home, and that the reasons for doing that just don’t add up.
2. Thanks to Bush, we’ve been engaged in policies that were good for the rich and destructive to the middle class.
3. Thanks to Bush, we’ve been ignoring the big issues facing our nation in favor of divisive social issues that keep us from solving our problems.
4. Thanks to Bush, an unprecedented amount of cronyism (good job Brownie) and corruption (don’t get me started!) has seeped into every area of our governance
5. Thanks to Bush, a good many of the ideals and values that we were taught as kids (might doesn’t make right, for example) have been shredded for the sake of reasons shrouded in inexplicable secrecy
6. Thanks to Bush, the world is a much more dangerous place (less secure, more damaged environmentally, fewer allies who trust us, more terrorist groups, less economically stable, etc.), and we are far less prepared to deal with the new world disorder because of an overstretched military and an economy in shambles.
The collapse of the market casino seems, at least to people paying attention at an emotional level, to be the fault of the person, and his party, who has been in power, a President that has been so arrogant, made so many mistakes and allowed or encouraged so many bone headed choices over the last 8 years that they are too many to count. If Obama can successfully tie McCain to Bush in the majority of American voters’ minds (and assuming there is little monkey business at the polls…something that is still in doubt), he triumphs in the election.
McCain gave up his outsider status when he chose to stand by W at almost every turn in the road, embrace the ‘agents of intolerance’ that he spoke out against in 2000, and even adopt W’s campaign tactics that were used against himself in his campaign against Obama. I believe this choice about how to run his campaign has cost him a lot of love and support from moderate voters like myself who thought he was a breath of fresh air back in 2000. And I think this makes Obama’s persuasion work much easier, and McCain’s much harder.
Neither candidate stands to gain more than they might lose by demonstrating real leadership on the financial crisis. Better to go along to get along, to make a few noises and claims, and stick with their game plans. The alternative just isn’t worth it.
What do you think about all this? I’d love to hear your comments.
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.