Leslie Sanchez | Bio
Many assumed that the "3 a.m. call" would be an international threat coming in the middle of the night.
But over the last two weeks, it's come instead in broad daylight, in the middle of the trading day, as our nation has been suddenly thrust into what may be the most perilous time for our economy since the Crash of 1929. Just since the kids went back to school, we've seen our most venerable financial institutions collapse like castles in the sand. Our savings, our college funds and retirements, the homes we hope to keep, the hopes we all have for ourselves and our children, are very much in the balance. In days, Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch and AIG have fallen like a house of cards. We've witnessed the biggest market collapse since 9/11 or the Great Depression, only to see a dramatic rebound once it looked like the government would step in with a massive and unprecedented bailout that could – for better or worse – change the nature of American capitalism forever.
It has been a month of surprises in a campaign year of surprises, and it provides us a rare opportunity to observe the responses of the men and women who would lead us in a moment of real crisis (one that will be, we certainly hope, anyway, worse than anything they will actually face in office).
Neither candidate has distinguished himself in the immediate aftermath. Barack Obama's reaction to the ringing of the buzzer was to hit the snooze alarm, burying his head in his pillow for just a few minutes longer, until a consensus emerged. He has hit the snooze a number of times now, though, and some are beginning to wonder if, in a real crisis, he would ever be able to roll out of bed.
McCain, on the other hand, woke up fitfully, twisting and turning as he groggily caught his bearings. However you feel about the government's actions in the wake of this month's series of events, you'll find McCain having taken a stand on your side – and against you, because he's taken virtually every position, lately even contorting his decades of de-regulatory, free-market Reaganism into the shape of a pro-regulatory populist. The economy has never been McCain's strong suit, and he himself has acknowledged as much.
Taking each candidate at his worst, Obama has shown himself a calculating and indecisive partisan, while McCain has appeared hasty and rash. Taken another way, Obama has wisely waited for the learned advice of experts, while McCain has, once again, shown decisive leadership.
The one who most obviously showed himself up to the task, of course, is Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Whether you agree with his decisions or not, Paulson has risen to the challenge of leadership in a moment of crisis, he’ll be remembered as having staved off a fiscal calamity, if only for a matter of days.
In less than a week, he has almost single-handedly sold to the bipartisan leadership of both Houses of Congress a plan so audacious, so sweeping in its scope and cost as to be virtually incomprehensible. And he appears on the threshold of enacting it, despite all the bluff and bluster on Capitol Hill. Such is leadership in a time and a place where leadership is lacking on all sides, where legislation is written and passed before it is read and where bitter, partisan warfare has substituted for reasoned discussion and debate.
With instability at home and abroad, America deserves better, more astute leadership: men and women who would not only have foreseen the 3 o’clock call (as many did) but have gotten out of bed and prepared in anticipation.
Editor’s Note: Leslie Sanchez is a former adviser to President Bush and CEO of Impacto Group, which specializes in market research about women and Hispanics for its corporate and nonprofit clients.
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