Thursday, September 18, 2008

Premediating Economic Recovery

In what was arguably the most cynical speech yet in what has been arguably the most cynical campaign in the history of American presidential politics, John McCain took a page out of the Bush-Cheney playbook from the run-up to the Iraq War, attempting to premediate economic recovery under a McCain-Palin administration.  In a speech scheduled at 9:00 AM EST (8:00 AM in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where McCain and Palin found themselves this morning), McCain provided his own analysis of the current economic crisis (blame Barack Obama) and premediated the way in which a McCain-Palin administration would solve the problem.  McCain's speech attempted to premediate economic recovery in the following ways.

1. McCain's speech was scheduled in advance of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's scheduled 10:00 AM EST speech in which he was to announce a bipartisan agreement with Congressional leaders to establish a government-funded trust to secure the billions of dollars of failing mortgages that have led to the current financial crisis.  Thus McCain's address pre-mediated Paulson's address, trying to present McCain as getting the jump on the crisis.

2. In his speech McCain proposed a Mortgage and Financial Institutions trust that would work similarly to the solution that Paulson was to describe, except that McCain's proposed MFI would aim to address economic crises before they happened, pre-mediating rather than re-mediating these crises.

3. The conclusion of McCain's speech was timed to coincide with the opening bell on Wall Street, where stocks were universally expected to open significantly higher this morning.  The money shot for the speech was a split screen with McCain and the ritualistic ringing of the bell on the floor of the NYSE, which opened up nearly 400 points in less than 15 minutes.  Because of this brilliant theatrical maneuver, McCain's economic speech pre-mediated a sharp rise in the DJIA, as if he was in some sense responsible for its rise.

Given the prominent role played by former Karl Rove operatives, it is no surprise to see the McCain campaign employ the strategies of premediation that worked to mobilize Congress and American public opinion to support the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  These strategies, while powerful, may not have the same efficacy in a presidential campaign that they did when they were employed by a White House that could control the media landscape.  The Obama campaign will contest these narratives point by point in a way that did not happen in the run-up to the Iraq War.  If they are to be successful, however, they, too, will need to continue to employ their own premediation strategies, as they did so brilliantly in the primaries with their message of hope and change.  These strategies must be coupled with aggressive attacks on the McCain campaign's message and McCain's record (and Palin's lack).  But elections are about the future, and it is only by prevailing in the contest to premediate the next presidential administration that Obama and Biden can be sure that it is they, and not McPain, who will be inaugurated on 1/20/09.


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