But here is where he may be able to steal a march on the Democrats. They assume, not unreasonably, that the GOP candidate will be blamed for the bad economy and will try to avoid the issue. But rather than following his instincts to talk mainly about foreign and defense matters, McCain should engage the Democrats and the public intensely on the full policy implications of the impending financial- and currency-crises-induced recession.
Just talking a lot about his concerns for the public's economic needs is important. Republicans never have learned the political truth that the Democrats learned a century ago: If the public doesn't hear a party talk about its concerns, it reasonably assumes the party doesn't care.
But in this instance, McCain can do more than show he cares (although he needs to do that a lot). If the economy is going to be as bad as most experts expect, the public will not tolerate a Republican Party that refuses to propose some governmental interventions. That was the argument of Herbert Hoover's treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon: Liquidate labor, real estate, stocks, farmers, etc.; clear out the dry rot, and wait for recovery. If that is all the GOP offers, it will lose in a historic landslide -- and would deserve to.
There are policies that may help a lot. We must protect the housing market from being flooded with many millions of foreclosed homes. It would not only wipe out millions of families who were foreclosed on but also would crash the value of everybody else's homes for many years. McCain should develop and quickly and repeatedly call for such protections. Other interventions also may be necessary, perhaps including some re-regulation of financial institutions.
At the same time, he should challenge the Democrats to explain how, during a recession that will reduce government tax revenues sharply and require hundreds of billions of dollars of housing relief, they are going to pay for all the goodies they are promising. As Nicholas von Hoffman pointed out in The Nation: "The billions that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would have had to spend (on universal health care, teachers' salaries, infrastructure, decent-paying jobs for laid-off workers, etc., will) not exist."
McCain should challenge the Democrats to explain under what theory raising taxes -- even on the filthy rich -- during a recession will help lead to recovery rather than drive the recession deeper.
To the extent that the public is looking for a strong commander in chief, McCain already has those votes. Of course, he should continue to make his defense and foreign policy points.
But this election will be won or lost on the economy. And McCain must make hard times his friend. On that issue, don't yield an inch to your Democratic Party opponent, senator, and Election Day may be yours yet.
Regretfully, the Democrats may be right to live in hope of being saved by a collapsing economy.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.