After a dreadful three weeks for the McCain-Palin ticket, Sarah Palin came through--big time--Thursday night. She stopped the McCain campaign's slide and set up a rebound...if.
If House Republicans follow through Friday by passing the bailout bill.
The McCain-Palin ticket's slide over the past three weeks hasn't been primarily due to various McCain-Palin campaign missteps--though there have been plenty of those. It's happened as a result of the meltdown of the financial markets. The McCain campaign's fall coincides with the collapse of Lehman Brothers and everything that follows. The financial crisis was inevitably going to hurt the candidate of the incumbent party. The situation was made worse by the perception that the GOP (the Bush administration) was both presiding over a financial meltdown and obstructing efforts to deal with it (House Republicans). Republicans lost both ways. If you disliked the bailout, you were angry the Bush administration--and if you thought the bailout necessary, you were angry at the House Republicans. All in all, it was a bad three weeks for the Bush administration and congressional Republicans--and the Republican presidential ticket suffered.
Now there's a chance to halt the political bleeding--and even to turn things around. The House has to pass the bailout bill. It's too late to get an alternative solution considered (and I say this as someone who might well prefer various alternatives). It's now the Senate bill or nothing. And doing nothing risks--I'd say invites--economic and political disaster. Passing the Paulson plan won't solve all the financial problems we face--but failing to pass it will exacerbate them, and will keep the markets in a state of roiling uncertainty at best, and meltdown at worst. Passing the bill may at least offer some surcease--and will alleviate the sense that on the Republicans' watch, everything is simply falling apart and the Republican party can't get its act together to do anything.
So House Republicans should help pass the bill. I think it's the only responsible thing to do in terms of the economy. But I also think it's the only way McCain has a chance to win. To those House Republicans who care about conservative principles, about limited government and free markets--I'd ask this: How much damage will a president Obama and a Democratic Congress do to the causes you care about? Electing McCain gives us the best shot at solving this crisis in a way that doesn't lead to a permanent and perhaps irreversible expansion of the size and scope of government. Following up on Sarah Palin's victory, principled House conservatives should vote yes tomorrow. Passing the bailout would give McCain a fighting chance to win, which in turn provides the best chance--the only chance--for conservative principles to prevail in the next few years.
William Kristol is editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD.