Panic, not even at the Disco

UPDATE: Not even the Wall Street Journal editorial page fell for McCain’s “reasoning”:

So count us as mystified by Senator John McCain’s decision yesterday to suspend his campaign and call for a postponement in Friday’s first Presidential debate so that he and Barack Obama can work out a consensus bill to stabilize the financial system. This is supposed to be evidence of leadership?

I was muddling through some papers this afternoon, so I missed everything after John “Coming to the Wry” McCain’s decision that, after he got schooled by a comedienne, he needed a excuse to skip tomorrow night’s scheduled debate. Fortunately, Brad DeLong covered that part, including the sane reaction to McCain’s “I will bring my superpowers to bear” statement:

It’s not economic leadership that Senator McCain would bring to these negotiations; it’s presidential politics – which is the last thing we need if we really want to solve the serious problems our nation faces.

But the Word of the Day goes to Felix Salmon:

I have a feeling I know what President Bush is going to say in his address to the nation tonight, but the single biggest message has already been sent, thanks to his decision to schedule the last-minute broadcast coming on the same day as John McCain announced he was suspending his presidential campaign to try to wrestle the bailout to the ground. The message is the same as the one sent by Hank Paulson over the weekend, when he asked for unprecedented power and unaccountability in structuring the bailout fund. And the message is not one that politicians should be sending:


After saying nice things about Chris Dodd and Barack Obama, who have stayed focussed, Salmon returned to McCain, and used a form of That Word again:

McCain’s statement, in this context, was truly unhelpful. This is panicky, not constructive:

It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the Administration’s proposal. I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time.

This strikes me as a profound misreading of the public’s mood, a bit like Rudy Giuliani’s decision to try to extend his second and final term as mayor on the grounds that only he was qualified to do the job. America does not want to elect a politician who can’t help construct a bailout package without abandoning a foreign-policy debate. Nor should it.

Meanwhile, I played volleyball while Bush fiddled. Fortunately, Floyd Norris got paid to watch tonight’s performance:

President Bush tonight gave a reasonably good explanation of how we got into this “financial crisis,” even if his list of causes was a little selective. His first cause was the willingness of foreigners to lend us money, a problem that we must hope will continue as the Treasury tries to borrow $700 billion to finance this bailout….

If there are any decisions his administration made that helped to worsen the situation, he did not mention them….

In boosting his plan, he took credit for the idea that there should be limits on executive pay, which his administration had opposed until today. It would have been nice if he had conceded that was a change, but you can’t have everything.

Situation Normal, down to the “his lips are moving” moment:

The most jarring part of the speech was his statement that his plan called for the government to buy troubled mortgage assets “at current low prices” and hold them until the value rises. In fact, the basis of the proposal is to buy assets at well above current market value — called fire-sale prices by Ben Bernanke — and thus recapitalize the financial system. They hope the market value will rise above what they pay, but that is not the same as buying at current low prices. Does he not understand that, or does he not want to acknowledge it?

I love questions for which there is no wrong answer.