Reacting to Events: Presidential Strategy for the Last Month

The simplest definition of Sun Tzu's strategy is decisions that we make in response to conditions. The British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, said it succinctly. When asked what represented the greatest challenge for a statesman, he replied:

“Events, my dear boy, events”.

After their respective campaigns, McCain had seized the high ground with the pivotal blue-collar vote, but then events intruded as they always do. McCain's slide at the polls has been caused almost entirely by his inability to respond to the unexpected financial meltdown. Obama has come up with a simple explanation that is perfectly in line with his themes: the problem comes from Bush and Republican deregulation of Wall St. If McCain is to survive, he must leverage this event to an even greater extent than Obama has done. He let his primary opportunity get away: opposing the Wall St. bailout. With only a month left, simply letting Palin loose to attack Obama's character is not nearly enough in the time that is left.

To survive, McCain must not ease the fears about the financial crisis but increase them. He must offer the real explanation of what has gone wrong: government intrusion into the markets via Fanny, Freddy, the CRA, and Sarbanes Oxley and a dozen other ways to "fix" the naturally bumpy ride toward the future during times of change. AND he must explain exactly how the further intrusions proposed by Obama of protectionism and penalizing the successful will transform a market correction into a new great Depression.