It doesn't take a mathematical genius to see that there is no way to underwrite the hundreds of billions—even trillions—that might be required to prop up the financial system and continue to fund entitlements and cut taxes and fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and balance the budget. Ronald Reagan sold us this snake oil in the '80s and proceeded to rack up monumental deficits that dwarfed those for which he chided Jimmy Carter. In that sense—the sense of lying—it is fitting that McCain constantly cites Reagan as his hero. McCain cannot be stupid enough to believe that such enormous sums can be wrung out of the veto pen or a ban on earmarks. His posturing for the last two months has been transparently zany. He "suspended" his campaign, supposedly to work on a bailout bill. He had next to nothing to do with its drafting, and then when it was loaded up with all the ridiculous legislative giveaways he claims to despise, he quietly voted for it—and couldn't even be bothered to speak from the Senate floor. It's his principles that he's suspended, and voters can sense it.
And, OK, presidents don't make economic policy by themselves. (Certainly, the sitting one doesn't.) But gather all of McCain's economic advisers in a room, and you'll shortly want to install rubber wallpaper. The man actually boasts of consorting with Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, who between them could not utter a significant syllable about this financial meltdown when they spoke at the Republican Convention. His longtime economic adviser Phil Gramm is culpable enough for our current misery that a less forgiving country would jail or effectively exile him. (Don't take my word for it; ask Carlos Salinas.) I hope that Gramm's grave will carry the inscription: "We have sort of become a nation of whiners," his analysis in July of the state of the U.S. economy.
And so: I can understand voters' apparent belief that Obama will be much better equipped to handle the economy than McCain. That says less than I wish it did about Obama's policy and advisers, but it says everything about a complete inability to take McCain seriously.