Once again, Senator Barack Obama has set the agenda for the nation's business. Yesterday morning, Obama initiated events by phoning Senator John McCain and suggesting that they issue a joint statement about the bailout proposal. McCain agreed to that, and then went Obama one better -- "I'm going to suspend my campaign and go to Washington to make this deal," McCain said.
Not to be left out, President George Bush pre-empted both Obama and McCain by inviting (summoning) both of them to the White House for a conference.
The conference proved productive. The bailout deal, as of this moment, has been worked out, and the credit goes to Obama for pulling it together -- if it works.
But, the debate will go on as scheduled, and Obama is right about that. The nation's voters need to hear from both Obama and McCain. We need to hear them engaged in a lively discourse.
There is no reason or precedent for delay. In 1944 America was deep in conflict, fighting wars against Japan and Germany, with millions of men mobilized and sitting in foxholes, bravely fighting and dying -- but we had an election that year. The candidates, Franklin Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey, made whistle-stop tours around the country competing for votes. Our parents and grandparents marched to polls in November 0f 1944 to cast their votes. In the midst of war, we argued, debated and voted, because that is what we do.
In a far less dangerous situation today, there is no reason to postpone the debate.
TRUSTING BARNEY FRANK. Democrat Barney Frank is the Chairman of the House Finance Committee. He is the man I trust in working out the details of the bailout. Trust is a difficult thing. If it goes wrong, then I will share the blame.
Frank is 68 and has represented the 4th District in Massachusetts since 1981. I don't know him personally, but I know many of the people who sent him to Congress -- I lived in that district for 2 years. The 4th District comprises Boston suburbs, such as Newton and Brookline, as well as towns that have seen better days such as New Bedford and Fall River.
Frank represents all kinds of people -- except they all tend to vote Democratic.
Well, it's Massachusetts. Newton is a prosperous place, with an outstanding public school system and magnificent public library. If you conservatives out there despise the elitists, then Newton is ground zero. The average Newtonite -- first, would object to being called average -- but he would be educated, professional, highly competent, and well-informed. He does not often grouse about the evils of big government or the oppression of high taxes, BUT he wants his money's worth. I lived with these people for two years and, by and large, they are level-headed and generous.
Further south from Newton are the historic whaling towns of New Bedford and Fall River. You can almost see the ghost of Captain Ahab in these haunts. But the fishing and whaling days are long gone. They were replaced by textile mills that employed thousands -- but those mills are gone too -- gone to the South, and then to Mexico, and then to Viet Nam and Lesotho -- leaving behind an industrial heritage of empty brick factories and unemployed people waiting for jobs that will never come back.
In addition, New Bedford has one of the largest Portuguese communities in the country. Portuguese fishermen settled in these parts many generations ago and continue to celebrate their culture.
The Fourth District is in New England, of course, and the fall colors are beginning to show. There is no place that I have ever seen that is more beautiful than New England in the fall. And it's not the colors -- which are gorgeous and intense -- even so it's not the colors, but the very air -- intoxicating, refreshing air that gave birth to the word "crisp" like the crunch of a New England apple.
This story about the people of New England and the fall colors is in no way a diversion from the current economic crisis, because it is most important to realize, at times like this, that critical actors, such as Barney Frank, are rooted in a community which they represent, and whose judgment they will face in early November.