Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do not suspend this campaign

I'm pleased to see that Obama is largely rejecting McCain's plea to suspend his campaign. McCain's move clearly strikes some as smart politics, making him appear above the fray. Personally, the move strikes me as a pretty transparent political ploy to change the dynamics of a race that he's losing. I have a hard time buying the notion that 100 senators can solve our fiscal problems but 98 can't. I honestly don't know how this will end up shaking out politically (although early polls suggest voters aren't really buying McCain's argument). That said, I think it would be a bad move on many levels if both sides suspended their campaigns.

The philosophy behind McCain's move is that campaigns and elections are all good fun when things are going well for this country, but they're expendable when things get serious. It's part of a philosophy (which, as I recall from my earlier career, was much subscribed to inside the Beltway) that elections are a distraction from good government rather than the cause of them. I think that's exactly the wrong message to send. We had elections during the Great Depression, World War II, and the Civil War; we can handle a debate and some advertisements today.

I didn't have a problem with the GOP scaling back the first night of its convention because of the hurricane. Conventions are largely ceremonial today and can survive some scaling back. But debates are about the most important thing that the candidates do during the general election. This is actually how voters make an informed decision. They get to see how candidates think on their feet, how they behave when challenged, and how they propose to deal with the most pressing issues of the day. Having such a debate out in the open would be a fundamentally good thing. I would say that our nation would be much better off by watching these two debate each other than by having them join their 98 colleagues behind the Senate's closed doors.