September 23rd, 2008
07:44 PM ET

McCain, Obama and Paulson answer the 3 a.m. call

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Leslie Sanchez | Bio
AC360° Contributor
Republican Strategist

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.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Economy • John McCain • Raw Politics
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Paris

    My 3 am call Came today when I watched as Ahmadinejad questioned the dignity of the American people while Larry King Watched.

    I watched as the president of Iran echoed some of what I have heard from Senator Obama in the past 18 Months.
    I am not sure what to think…., when there is such clear familiarity between Iran’s objectives and what we are preached to by Senator Obama.

    Ahmadinejad preferred for the United State leave Iraq quickly and was in favor of a time line for Iraq. A position judged to be safe for America by Obama.
    The president of Iran was heavily interested in more talks and open negotiations with the United State. If I recall correctly in Senator Obama’s judgment this was also a wise choice for America.

    Further into the interview I was again taken back by hearing a familiar tone. Ahmadinejad was telling us how our government wasting our money in Iraq and Afghanistan instead of spending it here in America. The man that can’t bring himself to accept the existence of Israel was actually concern about this nation’s health and education!!
    I have been hearing this talking point from Senator Obama. Over and over again he’s been telling us how we aren’t the same country we use to be.

    But the problem is I know Ahmadinejad is an enemy of the United State of America. Should I be concern about Senator Obama’s Judgment?

    September 23, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  2. Annie Kate

    Hillary would have been up at the first alarm and she would already have a plan in place. That lady doesn't waste time. I've noticed the whole campaign that Obama is slow to react and has to wait to see what the water feels like before he ventures in and McCain charges right ahead reversing himself several times along the way. Maybe Paulson has it right – I certainly hope he does – he's the only one with a plan it seems right now and the tenacity to push it through and execute it.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    September 23, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  3. Gilby-HI

    Lets let the FBI investigate just where all the fund have gone and also who signed and voted for the bills, rules and laws that alowed these millions to fall into there pockets.
    Who has profited from this mess is responsable.

    September 23, 2008 at 9:38 pm |
  4. Vaughn Samuel - Chicago

    Leadership isn't pouncing on every issue and commenting on things that even Ben bernanke and paulson have a tough time explaining to House committee. Leadership is reviewing the issues and making an informed decision that are based on sound Judgement. John McCain has shown that he is no different from George Bush. Why hastily take a position that may cost the american people so much to correct ( remember Iraq war?). Even though Obama took so long to speak out, he acted intelligently. Better late than sorry!

    September 23, 2008 at 9:24 pm |
  5. kathie

    If Barack Obama wants to be the one to answer the 3am call, he had better rein in his supporters like Chris Rock who kept rubbing in the fact that Hillary Clinton had "lost" on late night TV. 18 million voters preferred Hillary and realize that a lot of others...principally black voters...chose Obama instead simply BECAUSE HE IS BLACK....rather than because he would make the strongest President They NEED Hillary Clinton's supporters who may stay home if this ridicule continues. We know who would have been the better candidate. Now we have to decide whether to support the second best or allow the worst to prevail. Some common sense and decency would go a long way. I am offended by the way Hillary continues to be mocked. Someone of a race which has suffered from discrimination should be more enlightened than to use sexist put-downs!

    September 23, 2008 at 9:20 pm |
  6. Micheal

    Even though I consider myself to be a Obama fan, I think Leslie Sanchez makes some very good points in her blog posting. When Leslie stated "Neither candidate has distinguished himself in the immediate aftermath." I had to agree. I have not heard either canidate really stand up and tell us how they plan on helping us out of the crisis we are facing. Personally I like watching Mrs. Sanchez comentate on the issues. I feel that even though she is on McCains side she does point out each candidates strengths and reactions to the issues we all are facing. I look forwad to watching the debates and also listening to Mrs. Sanchez's remarks afterwards.

    September 23, 2008 at 9:19 pm |
  7. kathie

    If Barack Obama wants to be the one to answer the 3am call, he had better rein in his supporters like Chris Rock who kept rubbing in the fact that Hillary Clinton had "lost" on late night TV. 18 million voters preferred Hillary and realize that a lot of others...principally black voters...chose Obama instead BECAUSE

    September 23, 2008 at 9:14 pm |
  8. Keith

    How is that promise by obama to guarantee that we all get the same health care program that he, as a U.S. senator, receives? He wouldn't go back on that would he?

    September 23, 2008 at 9:06 pm |
  9. lynn

    Leslie must have been sleeping last week when Obama made his economic speech in Wisconsin last Tuesday. When she wakes up, she can actually do some research and go to his website where it is carefully explained.

    He also stated he was keeping touch which all Senators were as they learned more about the "deal" over the weekend. He spoke yesterday about his reservations and put them forward at a press conference in Florida this morning.

    Obama was wide awake, engaged in collecting the facts and details and then gave his bottom line. That is exactly what the other Senators did when they had a chance to question people this morning.

    Leadership, bipartisanship and conses building were all appropriately displayed By Barack Obama.

    September 23, 2008 at 9:03 pm |
  10. Louise

    Yes I agree with Kate, good luck next week Leslie after the debates. you would be much more beleiveable or should say palatable if you could see your way past the GOP to understand that this is politics and that there is another side to the story. The people decide Leslie, NOT YOU

    September 23, 2008 at 8:56 pm |
  11. Kate, NV

    Leslie- Since you are only paying attention to McCain you must have missed the 6 point plan Obama layed out on Tuesday, 9/16 when McCain was recovering from his statement to the crisis "the economy is fundamentally sound" and his request to fire the SEC. Yes, you probably missed that because you so focused on how to recover from a disasterous week of John McCain gaffes. Good luck next week after the debates.

    September 23, 2008 at 8:47 pm |
  12. Susan, Florida

    “Lawmakers have criticized the Bush administration for asking for a "blank check."“ Thank Goodness someone is questing this administration. We all need to consider the following:

    1. Real Estate market crashes……worst hit states FLORIDA and CALIFORNIA.

    2. Now as they are requesting the tax payers for $700 billion via the Congress to take on bailing out those Financial Institutions……. At the same time the bill that lets the OFF SHORE DRILLING expires during this “FINANCIAL crisis”. Just heard on “Kudlow’s - Is your Money Save on CNBC”.

    3. What a major mess…….most of OFF SHORE drilling will be off the coast of FLORIDA and CALIFORNIA.

    4. What a mess this 8 year administration will be leaving the next elected Officials.

    5. Trillions $$$$$ deficits (Unnecessary wars, bailing out Wall Street Financial Institutions, and now Drilling Off Shore vs. looking at alternatives to fossil fuels which pollute our very fragile EARTH.) So this Administration will now get to determine who gets the Off Shore Drilling Leases. Yikes!!!

    I feel very sad for who ever should win this up coming election either Obama or McCain…..what a terrible deficit state they are leaving this USA in……with only 8 years in office. ONLY 8 years to destroy this country!!!!!

    September 23, 2008 at 8:21 pm |
  13. Franky, Chicago IL

    "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."

    I don't know about you Leslie but I found my leader. Hey, you have your leader in your Maverick and that woman, whatever her name is.

    But you know what? Fate is changind before your eyes...and guess what? We didn't have to do nothing! LOL!!!! And don't say I didn't told you so...

    September 23, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  14. Heather,Ca,US

    I have a real problem with a grown man who can't make a decision until he talks to hundreds of people first. If Obama is truely that indecisive then he is fooling himself to think that he can make any tough decision on his own.

    September 23, 2008 at 7:52 pm |