Today, Barack Obama accused John McCain of having a Katrina like response to the financial crisis. Later, while trying to deny this allegation the McCain campaign actually reinforced the idea by explaining that one of McCain’s advisors asked, “You are running for president. Can’t you do something?” That is John McCain’s idea of leadership.
While speaking in Detroit, here is how Obama described McCain’s response to the crisis, “That’s why his first response to the greatest financial meltdown in generations was a Katrina-like response. He sort of stood there. He said the fundamental of the economy are strong. It’s why he’s been shifting positions these last two weeks, looking for photo-ops, trying to figure out what to say and what to do.”
The McCain campaign, while trying to deny Obama’s characterization, actually helped to reinforce it during a conference call when describe the events of Wednesday. Here is Doug Holtz-Eakin’s description of the events, “At Hilton Wednesday morning meeting in NY, economic advisers “sent to him in very clear terms a message that said this economy is facing a great problem. The Pearl Harbor of the financial system is not an exaggeration. This is something that needs to get fixed. It needs to get fixed right.” One guy told McCain: “You’re running for the president of the United States. Can’t you do something? That was an important meeting. That impressed upon him, even more” the need to act.”
So by their own admission, McCain was not paying attention to the financial crisis until Wednesday, even though it started 10 days earlier? In that case, there are some similarities to Bush’s response to Hurricane Katrina. Bush’s original response was to ignore the crisis, so was McCain’s. Then Bush did nothing, so did McCain. When the aftermath of Katrina became too big to ignore, Bush sprung into a flurry of belated action, and what I have just described sounds a lot like John McCain’s leadership style over the past two weeks.
Instead of making McCain look like a leader his campaign’s explanation makes him look even more ignorant on the issue than most people assumed. McCain had to be asked why he isn’t doing something by his own advisors. If he was a real leader, McCain would have been acting on his own, without having to be told to do something. He didn’t start talking to people back in Washington until after the crisis was at a critical point, compared to Obama who had been speaking with Sec. Paulson for over a week.
McCain is supposed to be the experienced leader, but more often than not he has looked like a shallow politician, who is more concerned with getting elected than making good policy. While the financial crisis is nothing on par with Katrina, McCain’s reaction does say a lot about his leadership style, or lack thereof. The wheels are coming off of the McCain campaign, and if the perception of McCain being unable to lead on the economy sticks, his chance of winning the election is very slim.