Republican nominee John McCain called today for postponing Friday's presidential debate until the resolution of the financial mess on Wall Street, and even vowed to suspend his campaign to concentrate on finding a solution. A delay could change the dynamics of a campaign that has not gone well for him in the last two weeks. And perhaps McCain hopes the gesture would make him look as if he were putting politics aside amid an emergency.
But altering the debate schedule would hardly serve voters. If anything, debates are most valuable at times of national crisis, because voters need to hear candidates highlight their policy differences.
And while the subject of tomorrow's debate is foreign policy, not economics, the Wall Street crisis casts shadows all around the world. A darkening financial picture inhibits the nation's ability to keep troops abroad, for instance, and alters its relationship with China and major oil nations.
McCain's desire to seize the initiative is understandable, for the meltdown on an ill-regulated Wall Street is the harshest indictment possible of Republican stewardship of the economy. And McCain's initial response to the mess -- his odd claim that the fundamentals of the economy are strong -- made him look out of touch. But if he now thinks the problem can be tidied up during a short break from the campaign trail, he needs some new economic advisers.
McCain has already brought discredit upon his campaign by shielding running mate Sarah Palin from hostile questions. This impulsive new stunt makes him appear unsteady and underprepared, too. America can work through a financial crisis and handle a campaign at the same time.
In politics as on Broadway, the show must go on.