OBAMA vs. McCAIN ON THE ECONOMY….Fortune magazine has parallel interviews about the economy with John McCain and Barack Obama in the current issue, and the PR email they sent me highlights their answers to this question:

What do you see as the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy?

Obama: If we don’t get a handle on our energy policy, it is possible that the kinds of trends we’ve seen over the last year will just continue. Demand is clearly outstripping supply. It’s not a problem we can drill our way out of. It can be a drag on our economy for a very long time unless we take steps to innovate and invest in the research and development that’s required to find alternative fuels. I think it’s very important for the federal government to have a role in that process.

McCain: Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we’re in against Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences.

It’s as if McCain is trying to become a parody of himself here. Is his answer to every question “Islamic extremism”? And while Fortune’s readership undoubtedly skews conservative, does McCain really think they’re going to buy this?

Two things are remarkable here. First, that McCain genuinely seems to believe that Islamic extremism poses not just a threat, but a threat to the very existence of the West. This is science fiction territory. Second, that he apparently can’t come up with any better answer to Fortune’s question about economic threats. Not energy, not high taxes, not runaway entitlement growth, not healthcare, not globalization, not any of a dozen plausible answers that would have gone down fine with his base. Instead, “His eyes are narrowed. Nine seconds of silence, ten seconds, 11.” And then he came up with Islamic extremism.

It’s been pretty obvious for a while that McCain is going to try and turn the entire election into a referendum on national security, painting Obama as a 21st century Neville Chamberlain. This seems like an early sign of just how far he’s planning to take this. Luckily, Obama seems to be ready for it.

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