Posted by Mark
From The Nation
Herbert Hoover did not have the option of making a televised speech to the nation as the Great Depression unfolded.
That was, undoubtedly, a good thing--for Hoover and the nation.
Hoover was spared the responsibility of what George Bush took on Wednesday night--that of trying to explain a dramatic economic downtown without taking responsibility for the definitional role that his wrongheaded policies had in causing the crisis.
And the country was spared the painful image of scared president clutching a White House podium so tightly that his tension was audible.
"We are in the midst of a serious financial crisis," began Bush, who proceeded to tell America what it already knows: banks aren't making loans, credit markets are freezing up, businesses and families can no longer afford to borrow essential funds.
Grasp. Grasp. Rumble.
"The market is not functioning properly. There is a widespread loss of confidence," the lamest of lame ducks continued. "America could slip into a widespread financial panic."
Grab. Rattle. Grab.
"Fellow citizens, we must not let this happen," Bush went on.
"Many Americans are asking: How would a rescues plan work?"
"The final question is: What does this mean for your economic future?"
Grasp. Grab. Clutch. Claw.
Nothing that Bush said was in an address that lasted barely ten minutes was sufficient to inspire confidence, which explained why he has invited the two men who are competing for the unenviable task of succeeding him to join him on Thursday to pitch for passage ofthe most sweeping economic intervention scheme since the New Deal was applied to the Great Depression.
Democrat Barack Obama has already accepted the invite.
Republican John McCain, who on Wednesday announced a scheme to suspend campaigning in order to focus on addressing the mess, will have to show up.
And the presidential race will become fully linked with the advancement of Bush's recovery plan.
If Obama is smart, he will take another listen to Bush's speech – not to the words but to the sound of a desperate man trying to claw his way out of a corner. And he will recognize it as the same sound that Americans would have heard if a clueless Herbert Hoover had addressed the United States in 1929 – or in the last stages of the 1932 campaign.
The question Obama must ask himself is this: If Hoover had tried to get Franklin Roosevelt to help him advance a flawed plan to bail out the bankers who made the mess, would Roosevelt have rushed to Washington for a show of unity. Or would the Democrat who gave us that New Deal have said: "Let the Republicans appear with Hoover. I'm going to keep talking about taking the nation in a completely different direction."
There is no mystery as to why Bush and McCain want Obama to join them in the Rose Garden. They want him to be a part of their process--as opposed to an alternative to it.
Of course, appearing with Bush and McCain Thursday may help Obama to appear presidential.
But, after eight years of George Bush, America does not need the appearance of a president.
America needs a president. Bush's agonizing address reminded a nation that long ago lost faith in his leadership that he is not up to the task. McCain's deer-in-the-headlights dodge of trying to freeze the campaign and avoid the debates confirms that he has nothing more to offer than Bush.
Of course, they want Barack Obama to stand with them on Thursday.
Herbert Hoover would have loved to have Franklin Roosevelt at his side, instead of proposing sounder solutions.
Bush is Hoover. McCain is Hoover on steroids.
Obama, at this critical moment, should not lower himself to their level. He should be Roosevelt.