Hullabaloo on Maverick McMaverick being held accountable for the fact that his campaign is an M.C. Escher painting:
Obama being of by a dollar will equal McCain being off by ten trillion, and the pundits will excoriate both - while always reminding everyone that McCain is a hero who served his country honorably and a fiscal conservative besides.
Which would be true - if we were merely dealing with the patron saint of Straight Talk, riding his newly bewinged chariot to the White House. However, after reading this piece at Portfolio.com, I believe that this drastically undersells his mystical powers in a way that not only endangers America, but perhaps the entire space-time continuum.
There's a lot of talk in the blogosphere about John McCain's pledge to balance the federal budget by the end of his first term in office. The NYT has two articles, by Michael Cooper and Robert Pear, about whether such a thing is possible. Brad DeLong is scathing, of course, saying that " the only proper response is derision and laughter," and adding for good measure that McCain is displaying "the budget policy of an underpants gnome". Mark Thoma has more links.
But here's the thing: the pledge comes only in a 15-page briefing paper; it's nowhere to be found in McCain's actual speech on the subject. James Pethokoukis reports that McCain's economic advisers haven't crunched the numbers on the pledge: they can't say, for instance, what level of economic growth would be necessary, or how much discretionary spending might have to fall.
Pledging to balance the budget in one term is easy and cost-free: it's the kind of promise which is so improbable that no one's going to hold you to it when you fail to meet your goal, especially if you make the promise only in briefing papers, meaning there are no soundbites to be used against you in future.
See, your completely ridiculous plan doesn't count, because you only put it out in an official policy paper and didn't use the magical incantation that makes it a Real Policy. Of course, he is now talking about using cigarettes to kill Iranians, which I find to be a perfectly acceptable Real Policy. After all, a President's open and growing promotion of indiscriminately killing residents of a major Middle Eastern country (as a joke!) shows a real penchant for considering all the options on the table. You've got to consider not killing people before you consider killing them.