McCain once again has hoisted himself by his own petard. McCain’s effort to reverse the downward trend in the polls last week seems to have backfired. His highly publicized return to Washington risked hindering those negotiations by turning them into a political spectacle.
He seemed to minimize the risk of derailing the negotiations by not taking an active part in them. Instead he seems to have limited his participation to contacting members of congress to encourage them to pass the bailout bill, focusing on the doubting Republicans in the House. His efforts got him into the news and stopped the chatter about his deregulation policies creating the crisis.
At the end of the week, when people believed that the bailout bill would pass, he was taking credit for solving the problem. With the bill’s spectacular failure, McCain finds himself in a worse situation than the one last week. Instead of diverting discussion from how we got into this difficulty and receiving accolades for averting disaster, he finds himself ducking the ricochets of his own salvos.
The man who claims to embody the best leadership qualities could not lead his own party in a time of crisis. The intense degree of attention McCain called to this matter puts the failure of his efforts in sharpest relief. Increasingly his judgment appears to be somewhat superficial and geared to public realtions rather than substance.
The polls indicate that McCain is suffering the most erosion of support among older voters. These people are generally regarded as a more knowledgeable group of voters. My guess is that McCain’s predilection toward snap judgments, and willingness to take serious risks are causes of diminishing support from this quarter. His record shows him voting almost entirely for deregulation and he has boasted about it consistently until very recently. There is nothing in his recent activity to show insight and judgment sufficient to separate him from his record.