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McCain Needs to Rely on More than National Security

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In a recent interview with John McCain, Fortune magazine began with the question: what do you think is the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy? McCain could have answered such a question in any number of ways, but this is what he said:

Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we’re in against radical Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences.

According to Fortune, McCain did go on to discuss all the various soft spots in our economy but isn’t that initial answer telling? Sure, it’s politically smart to lead off with your “best” issue and he’s not factually wrong to suggest that a successful terrorist attacks could devastate the economy, but boy is he in trouble if this is how he feels he needs to answer an economic question.

While it’s not always appropriate to apply lessons from the primaries to the general election, I think it is important to note that Rudy “9/11” Giuliani managed to go from leading the polls to not making it to Super Tuesday partly because his one-issue platform was severely lacking. McCain isn’t nearly so one-dimensional, but answers like the one above suggest his campaign may be trying out an “all the eggs in the same basket” approach.

Preferably, instead of making a nifty pirouette to escape an economic question, McCain should have good answers on the economy. He doesn’t want this to be an “economic” election but he can’t so readily cede the territory. There are good reasons to believe his less collectivist approach would be more beneficial to more people in the long run. He can’t win this election if he doesn’t at least attempt to make his case without seeming to dodge the question. National security is extremely important, but McCain can’t make it his only issue.