Irony Watch

IRONY WATCH…. Some of my favorite John McCain lines are the ironic ones. At last week’s debate, for example, he argued, “I’ll also tell you, when times are tough, we need a steady hand at the tiller.” He didn’t seem to appreciate why that might be amusing.

And today, unveiling the latest in a series of economic proposals, McCain had this gem: “Investors are always responsible for their investment decisions, but the hard earned savings of Americans should not be penalized by the erratic behavior of politicians.” He, again, seemed unaware of why this might be amusing.

Look, if you’re going to knock “erratic behavior of politicians” in a speech about the financial crisis, it’s probably best not to say this after your campaign has changed its mind three times in three days about whether you even have a new economic plan to offer.

McCain’s comment did get me thinking, though. We’ve all talked about how “erratic” McCain’s been over the course of this crisis, but just how many competing ideas/responses have we seen? Off the top of my head: 1) “fundamentals of the economy are strong”; 2) we need a commission; 3) we need to fire Chris Cox; 4) the AIG bailout is a bad idea, the AIG bailout is a good idea; 5) “suspend” the campaign; 6) blame Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac; 7) support the Paulson bailout, then take credit for killing the Paulson bailout; 8) propose the “Homeowner Resurgence Plan,” forget about the “Homeowner Resurgence Plan.”

I’m sure I’m missing some, but you get the idea.

I’d just add one related thought. The conventional wisdom has been that McCain dropped in the polls after the crisis began in earnest because voters’ attention shifted to the economy, which is McCain’s weakest point. That’s largely true, but it’s incomplete. McCain dropped because his response to the crisis has been ridiculous. This was an opportunity for McCain to not only show some leadership and a “steady hand,” but also that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the economy. He’s failed miserably.

“Erratic behavior of politicians,” indeed.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.