On Thursday, Senator Barack Obama suggested “We are in the midst of the most serious financial crisis in generations.”
Just two days earlier, Obama raised an estimated 9 million dollars during a Beverly Hills fundraiser, with each contributor paying 28,500 for admission to the event. Three days earlier, Senator John McCain raised 5.1 million dollars during an event in Miami. Obama raised a record 66 million dollars during the month of August while McCain achieved a personal best of 47 million.
Yes Virginia, there is a financial crisis; unless, of course, you work in the campaign industry.
The Fundamentals of Campaigning Are Strong
The two candidates aired over 100,000 ads on broadcast television from June 3rd, to July 26th, an increase of 33,000 from the same period in 2004, according to findings from TNS Media Intelligence/CMAG with analysis by the Wisconsin Advertising Project. In a new report released Wednesday, they also reveal that the Obama and McCain campaigns spent more than 15 million on television advertising in the first week following the conventions.
Of course, it’s not simply the candidates reveling in this political market. The campaigns provide talking points to their pundits, who in turn distribute them to the eager recipients at cable talk shows. From there, the “analysis” from the pundits is picked up by internet sites like Drudge Report or The Huffington Post until it is eventually repeated in blogs and website “comment” sections. To watch an argument travel the path from campaign press release to a casual citizen recycling the argument while responding to a YouTube video confirms this much; the trickledown economics of rhetoric will need no bailout.
Sensitive to a Crisis…When Politically Beneficial
As Hurricane Gustav neared, both McCain and Obama asserted that this was no time for campaigning and partisanship. Scaled back were the events during the first day of the Republican Convention and the speeches made by Obama during public appearances.
When Hurricane Ike ravaged the coast of Texas, the two candidates made truly inspired sacrifices; Obama cancelled his Saturday Night Live cameo and McCain set aside campaigning to attend a NASCAR race. Despite the progress made in recovery efforts, this week concludes with 22,000 evacuees who are unable to return home and 2.3 million customers without power (1.6 million in Texas alone). Yet it was also a week where both campaigns charged onward with rallies and attacks. Current estimates place the cost of Ike at 25 billion dollars, well ahead of Gustav and projected to rank as the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history. Still, Ike didn’t happen during a convention, nor did it allow an opportunity to reflect on the response by the Bush Administration to Hurricane Katrina; as such, it’s carried little political currency for either campaign and has been relatively ignored by both the candidates and the national media.
Showing Up for Work
When Governor Sarah Palin accused Senator Harry Reid of being the leader for the “Do-nothing Senate”, some viewed the comment as a cheap shot; apparently, Senator Reid viewed it as direction. “No one knows what to do,” Reid said in reference to the financial crisis. “We are in new territory. This is a different game. We’re not out here playing soccer, basketball or football. … It is a multi-trillion dollar issue that is facing America, and we can’t do it on some timeline that is unrealistic.”
If only the Presidential candidates had some way to lend their voices to the congressional dialogue; you know, if only they were Senators themselves. Of course, finding their way back to their DC offices may be challenging, as McCain and Obama have spent little time there in recent months. According to WashingtonPost.com, among members of the 110th congress McCain has the poorest attendance for votes at 64% while Obama is third worst at 45.8%.
In an interview Tuesday during the Fox News program Hannity & Colmes, former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said “When I was a candidate, one of the things that really bugged me the most was that these guys had federal jobs, they got paid, they had their health insurance paid, they didn’t show up for work and I paid not only for my campaign, I had to pay for theirs, too, for their living expenses.”
While we generally accept that candidates will run for President while on government payroll, should we expect different in a time when, as Obama suggests, we are “in the midst of the most serious financial crisis in generations?” Is this truly the time to exploit the events for political capital, either in the case of Obama exaggerating the crisis in hopes of converting panic into votes, or McCain tacking a Wall Street cleanup onto the “get rid of the good ole’ boys” section of his stump speech?
Congressional leaders are expected to meet throughout the weekend with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. The Obama and McCain campaigns have informed us that these are no ordinary times and that this is no ordinary election. If we hold this to be true, perhaps we should expect extraordinary effort from our candidates, like suspending their campaigns for a week and returning to Washington so they can provide a calming presence for Americans while engaging their Congressional colleagues who are working with Paulson and Bernanke. This would be a truly transformative act for the “Transformative Candidate” and a maverick move by the “Maverick Candidate.”
Unfortunately, they can’t be bothered with fulfilling the job they are currently being paid to do. You see, they’re busy telling voters how they would change America in the future; you know, once they finally have the power to do something about it. Besides, they’re got a business to run; it turns out that talk, and campaigning, isn’t cheap.