The Show Must Go On

McCain's suspension ploy puts country second

John McCain is all about putting country first. So while a lesser man might selfishly pursue individual accomplishment by continuing to run for president even as his country faced economic disaster, the civic-minded McCain has decided to suspend his campaign and call for a postponement of the first presidential debate, originally scheduled for this Friday. As McCain courageously proclaimed yesterday, with the prospect of financial collapse looming, “it’s time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.”

Or at least, so he would have you believe. In fact, McCain’s proposed détente is little more than another tactical ploy from the desks of the Senator’s Rovian political machine.

Our country is currently faced with two decisions of immense importance. One of them is how to respond to the worsening financial crisis that threatens to cripple the American economy. But the other is which would-be commander-in-chief can use the next four years to ensure that what’s past is not prologue. We should not ignore the second question in our eagerness to address the first.

It might be useful to have Senators John McCain and Barack Obama in Washington this weekend to wrangle over the specifics of the proposed $700 billion federal bailout of Wall Street.

But, truth be told, their return is not essential. Neither McCain nor Obama claims to be an economic expert. McCain, in particular, has openly confessed that “economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” and any contributions the two might add to the debate can surely be made by other politicians. In fact, the candidates’ presence in Washington could even have the detrimental effect of “injecting presidential politics into this process or distract[ing] important talks about the future of our nation’s economy,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid suggested.

What is essential, however, is for the American public to see the candidates exchange policy proposals for the future at the scheduled debate on Friday night. The primary responsibility of the nominees right now is to allow American voters to make an informed choice for the next president.

McCain’s gambit is clever: The suspension is an offer Obama cannot refuse without playing into McCain’s depiction of him as an ambitious, self-serving politician. But Obama did right to call the Republican’s bluff, in spite of the apparent risk to his image. Anything else would have been downright selfish.

Daniel E. Herz-Roiphe ’10, a Crimson associate editorial chair, is a social studies concentrator in Adams House.