"It's the economy, stupid!" all over again.
And if not by university degree, the next president of the United States had better become an economist, and fast.
Leadership coach Stephen Xavier, whose list of clients includes Motorola, Goldman Sachs and Xerox, says the financial crisis suddenly dominating everybody's attention presents an even "tougher challenge" for the presidential contenders.
"Both candidates have gone on to play it rather safe politically through this economic crisis so far," he says, adding that "the best leadership, whether in business or politics, is set by bold example, not words."
He says Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama "have staked out strong and markedly different approaches on other key issues in this election, such as health care and social policy, but the economy may be the ultimate test of their judgment as possible leaders of the free world."
BETTER TO LEAD
In a recent ceremony sponsored by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee was presented with the prestigious 2008 Freedom Award.
Fittingly, Mr. Baker, who served 18 years in the Senate, was introduced by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the still-energized West Virginia Democrat, who turns 91 next month.
"In an unusual - perhaps even unprecedented - set of circumstances, Senator Byrd and I served as each other's majority and minority leaders for eight very eventful years in the late 1970s and early 80s," Mr. Baker noted. "And while there are some things Senator Byrd and I disagree on, one thing on which we're in absolute agreement is that being majority leader is better."
Among the Democrats not happy about bailing out Wall Street to the tune of $700 billion is former 2008 presidential candidate Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, who says the nation has come a great distance from "the New Deal to the raw deal."
"The golden rule of 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is submerged by the rule of gold: 'Do unto others before they do unto you.' "
SEGUE TO OBAMA
In the category of what's remaining and what's on the horizon for the U.S. Supreme Court, we turn to Curt Levey, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for Justice, who observes that this week marks "the beginning of the last Supreme Court term of the George W. Bush era."
The court's docket "includes important and colorful cases involving expletives broadcast live, marine mammals annoyed by Navy sonar, the 'Seven Aphorisms of Summum' vs. the Ten Commandments, and personally liability for former Attorney General John Ashcroft."
Less colorful, but equally important cases, he adds, involve Title IX, the Voting Rights Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and the Clean Water Act.
And what if Democrats led by Sen. Barack Obama storm the White House?
Mr. Levey suggests the three Supreme Court justices most likely to retire - liberals Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens and David H. Souter- "may well hold out for the next four years if John McCain becomes president."
That said, he presents the "Top 10 Things to Expect from an Obama Supreme Court."
10. Expanding racial preferences
9. Creating constitutional rights to physician-assisted suicide/human cloning
8. Expanding judicial oversight of military detentions/CIA interrogations
7. Prohibiting tuition vouchers for religious schools
6. Banning the death penalty
5. Creating constitutional rights to government welfare/medical care programs
4. Stripping "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance
3. Eroding property rights
2. Ordering 50 states to "bless" gay marriage
1. Requiring taxpayers to fund essentially unlimited abortion rights