Walking and chewing gum at the same time

WALKING AND CHEWING GUM AT THE SAME TIME…. We’re starting to get a better sense of what the McCain campaign’s “suspension” means in a practical sense. CNN, citing senior campaign adviser Mark Salter, reports that the Republican nominee “will suspend airing all ads and all campaign events pending an agreement with Obama, though Salter did not know whether John McCain will suspend fundraising activities. He added that McCain would take part in the debate as scheduled if Congress reached agreement on the measure by Friday morning.”

McCain is still prepared to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative tomorrow — it’s not the crisis should completely cause McCain to scrap his schedule — but then he’ll be ready to do some policy work on the Hill.

And if I understand the rationale, McCain believes the crisis is so important, it’s worth focusing all of his attention on it — at least between Friday and Tuesday — and nothing else.

This is ridiculous for any number of reasons. First, the crisis isn’t new, and McCain didn’t reach this conclusion until his poll numbers started falling. Would McCain have made this absurd decision if the polls showed him with momentum? Of course not.

Second, lawmakers and administration officials have been on the case for a while; it’s not like McCain has anything specific to contribute to the discussion. Indeed, if two candidates, their respective teams, the Secret Service, and a media circus went to the Hill on Friday, the chances of progress on a legislative package go down, not up.

But even more importantly, McCain is subtly telling voters that he’s not especially good at multitasking. As Yglesias put it, “I think walking and chewing gum at the same time is part of the president’s job.”

It’s certainly supposed to be. We’ve had campaigns, debates, ads, speeches, and fundraisers during wars and natural disasters, but we’ve never had a candidate who didn’t think he could handle campaigning during a crisis before.

McCain, in other words, apparently wants to call a time-out. I don’t blame him, necessarily, but here’s the thing: presidents don’t get to call time-outs. They don’t get to put some responsibilities on hold while they tend to other responsibilities. They need to be resilient, and put their duties ahead of the distractions and fatigue.

McCain, for lack of a better word, appears terrified this afternoon — terrified of losing, terrified of the race slipping away, terrified of a debate, terrified of events unfolding beyond his control.

And so, scared, he panicked, and made yet another rash and cynical decision.

John McCain is fundamentally unsuited for the presidency. Why he seems so anxious to remind us of this fact is a mystery.