The American people need to be honest with themselves for a moment: neither presidential candidate has the experience needed to run the economic cogwheels of our nation. While they will both try to convince you that they are the better leader in times like this, it is blatant rhetoric. The real issue, when it comes down to the economy, is what they have done in the past and not what they say they will do in the future. When looked at through this microscope, Obama has the slight advantage because McCain's track record on the economy is not so great. His statements this week also show that in an economic crisis like this one, he is more pandering than he is pragmatic.
First, let's look at how each candidate responded to the Wall Street mess. McCain started the week off by saying that the fundamentals of the economy were strong, even while the markets were beginning the breach their metaphorical levees. This is not an unprecedented move, as President Herbert Hoover made similar statements and tried to act like everything was normal while the country spun out of control into the Great Depression. In fact, they called Hoover "elitist" and "out of touch." No word yet on how many homes or cars he owned.
Obama played the economic game cautiously, waiting to come out with a vague proposal until the dust settled slightly on Wall Street. Personally, I like this because he avoided making mistakes that McCain did simply by stepping back for a moment and taking all of it in before commenting. A better approach than jumping the gun and making a mistake.
While the two candidates jawed at each other through mass media soundbytes, their campaign commercials certainly tell a lot about how they viewed the crisis. Obama put out a 2 minute ad in which he simply looks into the camera and discusses some of his economic plan in detail:
On the other hand, McCain put out an ad in which he says that Obama is advised by Franklin Raines, a former Fannie Mae executive:
The only issue with the Raines ad is that it is not true. Both Franklin Raines and Obama's camp have come out and said that not only is Raines not an adviser to Obama, but he never was in any capacity. Since these two ads, the two camps have put out more negative ads against each other and both sides seem to be stretching the truth.
Looking at the two's track records in Congress economically, Obama has the advantage in that he has not been in Congress long and thus has not gotten himself into trouble. McCain, on the other hand, has had a chance to prove himself and has not. In his first term he got caught up in the Keating Five fiasco, and more recently his adviser has attributed the success of RIM's BlackBerry to McCain, McCain is not clear on what his committee's responsibilities are, and in the most recent issue of the page-turner Contingencies he writes that "Opening the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation." He says later in the paragraph that "the state bureaucracies are no better than national ones." I take this to mean that he wants to remove some of the regulations from the health care industry in a similar fashion to the ones that "we" removed for the banking industry. Given what's happened recently I do not think that is a sound plan.
At the end of the day, the economy for both candidates is a wash. Neither has practical experience and they both have surrounded themselves with some questionable individuals. The only thing that gives Obama a boost is McCain's sketchy track record and his preliminary Hoover-esque response to last week's financial breakdown. If I were one of them the first thing I would do is dump anyone with questionable ties to any of the failed financial institutions or any executives who received large severance packages after doing a mediocre job and get some legitimate advisers - I'm talking PhDs, professors. Otherwise it's just more of the same. Peace.
Photos - Obama and McCain (a.abcnews.com)