Every four years during the presidential race we talk of the “October Surprise”, that unknown event that will shock and surprise the candidates on the campaign trail, and might force voters to think and act differently on Election Day. In the past we have had Iran-Contra surprises, DWI’s, and even a taped message from the bad guy no one can catch that lives in a cave, which were all thrown out as the ‘gotcha’ moment in the final days of the campaigns. But after all that has happened in the past week with our financial markets, I think we would be hard pressed to imagine, minus another 9/11 type moment, anything worse that could possibly take place.
This week we all will have plenty to ponder as a historic bailout bill for financial institutions is fashioned in Washington. My mind, like that of my fellow Americans, is numb to think that the amount of tax payer dollars at risk is more than double the entire cost of the Iraq war. The amount we speak of is more than the Pentagon, education, health and human services, agriculture and homeland security budgets all combined! The need to craft a bill that will meet the needs of the systemic crisis we face, must do so with the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the room. The Presidential race and the two competing candidates will be a factor at every turn.
We can only hope, and I admit this is almost impossible, that politics might take a back seat to getting this legislation done correctly. The stakes are extremely high, and even economic experts say that if we get liquidity back into the system, end the break-ups of large firms, and bolster the faith of the market it will be years until this is all resolved. We have a long haul ahead of us, and we can’t afford to get this one wrong.
It might be best for both John McCain and Barack Obama to head back to Washington together as a joint effort to show solidarity with our national effort to fix this problem. There is a powerful desire to play political games with this issue, but I suspect most voters want to see leadership now more than one-ups-manship. A presidential winner might emerge this week from such a tactic. And if that happens any other event that might occur in October, such as some small personal failing coming to light, will be inconsequential.