In the Arena

Kristol Blue Deflation

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Wilmington, N.C.

I’m hanging out, waiting to hear John McCain deliver his latest new stump speech–the text seems less toxic than recent efforts–but I couldn’t let Bill Kristol’s latest advice to the vote-lorn column pass. Last week, you may recall, Kristol wanted McCain to go negative in a big way. As if that would be a departure from the last few months. He even consulted with Sarah Palin about the need to go after Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright. (Palin said, youbetcha!)

This week, he wants McCain to fire the staff…for being so negative. McCain needs to be open, accessible and optimistic again. He needs to junk his negative ads. He needs to…well, uh, Kristol gets a bit snagged on what McCain should do that’s positive:

McCain should stop unveiling gimmicky proposals every couple of days that pretend to deal with the financial crisis. He should tell the truth — we’re in uncharted waters, no one is certain what to do, and no one knows what the situation will be on Jan. 20, 2009. But what we do know is that we could use someone as president who’s shown in his career the kind of sound judgment and strong leadership we’ll need to make it through the crisis.
McCain can make the substantive case for his broadly centrist conservatism. He can explain that our enemies won’t take a vacation because the markets are down, and that it’s not unimportant that he’s ready to be commander in chief. He can remind voters that even in a recession, the president appoints federal judges — and that his judges won’t legislate from the bench.

Except that some people have a fairly good idea about what to do. The British do, as Nobel laurate–congratulations!–Paul Krugman argues on the same page as Kristol. And Barack Obama unveiled four new proposals today–including a jobs creation tax credit and a good idea proposed by McCain last week, allowing people to raid their 401ks tax free for the rest of this year and 2009 (a good way to hold onto your house until your mortgage is renegotiated–or pay off your maxed-out credit cards).

But, clearly, this is an area neither Kristol nor McCain spend much time thinking about or studying. Can’t wait for next week’s Kristol column: dump Palin?