David Letterman On McCain’s Campaign Suspension And The Political And Cultural Conventional Wisdom
So now GOP Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, pointing to the Wall Street meltdown and the chance that Congress will balk at the Bush administration’s crucial bailout solution, has suspended his campaign — and reportedly won’t show up at Friday’s debate even if Democratic Sen. Barack Obama does.
In terms of the impact on Campaign 2008, the next few days will be critical as a new conventional wisdom — more important than any conventional wisdom you see emerging on right, left or centrist blogs — will begin to take shape. It’s the larger political/media conventional wisdom, and the cultural political wisdom.
QUESTION: What will reporters learn about this decision and report to their readers in coming days? Was it truly due to McCain’s concern? Reports indeed indicate the U.S. is poised on the brink of an almost unimaginable catastrophe.
Will various blog suggestions that McCain’s sagging polls have something to do with today’s “hail Mary” announcement prove correct or not? What was the chronology? Did Obama in fact privately call McCain first about a bipartisan statement of principles? Was his call unanswered for hours? Will McCain’s public announcement later for his campaign’s suspension and the debate’s suspension prove to be because of the actual immediate emergency, or will it come out that it was one-upsmanship after getting Obama’s call and trying to position himself as the bipartisan leader after Obama’s olive branch? Cynical minds will want to know and editors will try to find it out.
QUESTION: How will this play in another important court of public opinion — the court of the cultural influencers such as Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, and David Letterman? Comedians who do topical jokes and who’ve had significant influence on public perceptions go back to the days of Will Rogers, Bob Hope and Johnny Carson. I once had comedy coaching sessions with the great comedy coach Greg Dean who always noted that jokes involve the shattering of a shared assumption.
What’ll be most important the next few days are the emerging political and cultural shared assumptions.
Did McCain really feel he needed to do this and cancel the debate? Now his camp is calling for the cancellation of the Vice Presidential debate, too. Will it turn out that it’s never re-slated at all (which would mean Sarah Palin would go through a campaign protected from reporters and never having to debate)? Will McCain’s and Obama’s impact in Washington be substantive or will it turn out that either of them look like political chess pieces? And if there is hypocrisy on the part of Obama or McCain, is the press ready to point it out or only report official statements and show official photo ops? Attention is most focused on McCain now; Obama will walk through a political minefield as well.
And what will be the cultural conventional wisdom? A BAD SIGN: Watch David Letterman in full BELOW as he talks about McCain canceling an appearance on his show, McCain suspending the campaign and his shift from humor to serious political questioning.
Forget Rachel, Keith, Sean or Rush. If David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Jay Leno are all on the same page sharing unflattering assumptions on McCain’s suspension of his campaign and decision to scuttle a debate with Obama or a Vice Presidential debate, McCain won’t benefit from it.
Becoming a comedian’s punch line — or scold line — is not a good sign for any candidate who seeks to win.