John McCain again tried to channel Teddy Roosevelt in tonight’s debate though he almost flubbed the phrase for which the Republican president was best known:
You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt used to say walk softly — talk softly, but carry a big stick.
McCain is clearly trying to invoke the Rough Rider, happy warrior image that Roosevelt earned charging up San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. Perhaps he’s even trying to summon the memory of the Roosevelt who won a Nobel Peace Prize negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War.
Problem is, John’s omitting the other Roosevelt, the one that puts ol’ John to shame: the hard-charging trust buster, reformer admired by legions of Americans for standing up for the little guy against the moneyed corporate interests. John’s forgetting that Roosevelt considered himself a “Progressive” Republican.
The sad fact is that John McCain of 2000 could’ve assumed TR’s mantle comfortably. The Straight Talk Express, the real Straight Talk Express as opposed to the ersatz one of the current campaign, would resonate with voters. That McCain could’ve beaten Barack Obama. For the life of me, I don’t understand why he didn’t try to return to 2000. Instead, he’s filled his campaign with lobbyists like Rick Davis, who TR would’ve been the first to deride for their conflicts of interest in representing the people’s interests first and foremost.
If events proceed in this campaign as they’ve developed over the past 10 days, it appears McCain will lose–perhaps in an Electoral College landslide. If that happens, there will actually be a tinge of sadness for me. Of course, I will be overjoyed that a progressive Democrat has taken the White House. But the fact that he did so with the unbidden help of a massive financial crisis, what Warren Buffett has called a “financial Pearl Harbor,” takes much of the joy out of it for me.
I would much prefer for Obama to have won solely on the merits of his superior campaign and the strength of his ideas. I certainly believe that he had all of this going for him. And perhaps he might’ve won anyway. But it is hard to win when the victory takes place amidst so much suffering.
Let’s hope that, as David Brooks of all people said tonight on Charlie Rose, that Obama has surrounded himself with economic advisors of such consummate skill that they come up with a plan to get us out of this mess sometime before the end of the current century.