Suicides leave behind many more questions than answers. In most cases, instead of feeling pity for the deceased, the survivors feel anger and resentment. Their reaction is understandable.
They are left to wonder: What drove him to such a desperate act? Was it something we did — was it our fault? Was there anything we could have done to save him? Did we fail him in some way?
Friends and family members are left only to speculate about the real reasons for this brutal ending of a life. Even if there is a suicide note — and often there isn’t one — it is like a hieroglyph, a cryptic suggestion of the real reasons. Ultimately, they are left with more questions, more riddles. Meaning refuses to reveal itself.
For weeks now, I have been trying to understand John McCain’s suicide. Ever since the Republican convention, it has been clear to me that he was on a path towards self-destruction. The question was, why? Was there a way out? If there was a way to escape destruction, would he see it in time? Would he take it, to save himself and his Party?
For weeks now, I have been cheering McCain along. I met him briefly during the 2000 New Hampshire primary. Even though I was a lifelong Democrat, there really was no Democratic primary — Gore was a given — so many of us here turned our attention to the Republicans. I liked McCain on a variety of issues, mainly campaign finance reform, which was a big issue in those days. Plus, I got a chance to vote against another Bush.
So when Hillary dropped out this spring and I was left with The Enigma as my party’s choice, my attention turned again to McCain. The “ready to lead” mantra certainly had me in its grasp. I had no trust or confidence in Barack Obama. McCain had my trust. I believed in the man.
Then came Sarah Palin. Nothing do I love more than a clever strategic move, and picking her was as clever as it could get. And loving the underdog, the more the mainstream media and the Obama Plumber-wannabes tried to cut her down, the more I loved her and wished for her success.
Then came Wall Street.
Weeks ago I wrote about the holes in the McCain economic program. That was before the markets turned inside out, and what was once an inconvenience to us pseudo-Dems who wanted to support McCain turned into Katrina and Gustav and Ike all rolled into one big disaster. Though I tried to ignore the collapsing sea walls and portals of wealth, I was finally forced to admit that the economy was in shambles and that McCain had no plan.
He never had one.
David S. Broder, grand-daddy of Washington punditry, had it all figured out before the rest of us. Last week he wrote:
This year, a calamity has occurred in the financial world. The nonsense about Sarah Palin’s family dynamics and other matters, down to and including lipstick on pigs, has been banished by the mayhem on Wall Street as ruthlessly as the Condit story was erased seven years ago.
Obama, campaigning in Colorado, delivered an unusually tough critique of McCain’s long record as an advocate of deregulating markets. Obama was reinforced in an orchestrated chorus of Democratic voices, liberated from their preoccupation with the governor of Alaska and her family.
The lack of content does not reduce the political significance of what has happened. For months, McCain’s managers have understood that his biggest challenge is that eight out of 10 Americans think the country is moving in the wrong direction. To overcome the voters’ natural inclination to punish the party in power, there are relatively few things McCain can do.
In fact, there is little from McCain in response except to create a media stunt by “canceling” his campaign until Washington resolves this latest economic crisis. But all this does is to shine a cold, irrevocable light on McCain’s economic philosophy.
It is the economic philosophy of Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich. It’s the economic philosophy of those solipsistic, free-market Republicans who wouldn’t pull a screaming baby out of a burning car-wreck unless they could profit from it. It’s all self interest and self-interested.
Remember Reaganomics? The four pillars of Reagan’s economic policy were to:
- reduce the growth of government spending,
- reduce marginal tax rates on income from labor and capital,
- reduce government regulation of the economy,
- control the money supply to reduce inflation.
During the Republican convention, as I listened to Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and John McCain’s campaign chair, I had a discouraging sense of deja vu. With sonorous predictability, she listed McCain’s non-solutions to what ails America’s economy. What I heard has been said at every Republican conventions since I started voting in 1972 and became part of our national economic history starting with the first Reagan term.
The solutions they offer are the same tired ideologies of the individual, the free market economy, a government that governs least. It’s DOA Reaganomics, circa 2008. As a political party the GOP is bankrupt of new economic ideas.
No, I am not anti-individual, anti-free market, pro government.
But what I do understand as a student of political and economic history, is that sometimes an external force is needed to correct a negative economic trend. I understand that sometimes people who have been beaten down by an economy that has stripped them of their jobs, decreased their buying power, and shattered their faith in the American dream, need more than lectures about the virtues of a free market. They need someone who can revitalize their hopes and keep them from sinking financially while the fundamentals of the national economy are restored.
The Republicans have never understood that and still don’t. No one doubts McCain’s vastly superior credentials and experience when it comes to foreign policy. Yes, the American people want to be safe. But they also want to be able to pay their mortgages, afford health care, send their kids to college, and not feel they are swimming backwards financially.
Every poll shows that the top concern of most Americans in this election is the economy. And the GOP is trying to ignore it because they don’t know how to fix it. That’s not how they will take this election from Obama, who does get it.
Someone in the McCain campaign needs to draw up one of those signs screaming what the rest of us already know: “IT”S STILL THE ECONOMY, STUPID!” and put it where McCain, Palin, Fiorina, et al can see it. Next, and perhaps the tougher task, is to get them to actually come up with economic solutions that inspire, not insult, American voters.
This is like asking the proverbial tiger — in this case McCain — to change his stripes. What are the chances of that happening?
Instead, he has called off the debate and wants to fix Wall Street. Of all the symbolism for a Republican to embrace, would would be more predictable than Wall Street? For most Americans, that means greedy, overpaid CEOs and senior management lap-dogs with golden parachutes and homes in the Hamptons.
In the meantime, the McCain campaign is on the wrong side of jobs, on the wrong side of taxes, on the wrong side of health care reform, on the wrong side of the minimum wage, on the wrong side of social security. Why can’t he just come out and say he WILL NOT privatize social security? Because John cannot tell a lie. And like a good student of Reaganomics, he would certainly privatize social security if he could.
I can’t for a moment believe that John McCain doesn’t know what he is doing, that the price he is paying for his allegiance to the man who welcomed him home from Hanoi and made him part of the Reagan Revolution is to lose this election. It is McCain who has gathered the rope, thrown it over the ledge, and pulled it tight around his neck.
It is the rest of us, the survivors who supported him and who wanted him to win, who are left behind, abandoned, questioning, and angry.