Harold Meyerson argues that, due to his adherence to the Republican view that government is always the problem, never the solution, and the Bush administrations realization it had no choice but to embrace government intervention to stabilize the financial sector and the economy, John McCain has little to offer in response to the current economic crisis:
What McCain Economic Policy?, by Harold Meyerson, Commentary, Washington Post: "Government is not the solution to our problem," Ronald Reagan told his fellow Americans in his first inaugural address. "Government is the problem."
For modern American conservatism, Reagan's words may as well have been inscribed on the tablets handed down at Mount Sinai. The market was god and Reagan was its Moses, and Republicans have sworn fealty to both for the past quarter-century. One invariable feature of the 2007-08 Republican primary debates was the effort of each candidate to cast himself as Reagan's one true heir. John McCain proudly recounted how he enlisted as a foot soldier in Reagan's revolution. How was he to know that government was about to become a solution again?
Over the past few months, George W. Bush's administration, which consciously modeled itself after Reagan's, has repeatedly been compelled to bail out private or semi-private financial institutions, re-regulate markets, and rescue beleaguered homeowners. Government, it turns out, is indeed a solution -- at times, the only solution -- for large-scale market failure, a problem not foreseen in the gospel according to Reagan.
Unfortunately for McCain and his fellow Republicans, it's the only gospel they've got. At the very moment when the economy looms larger in Americans' consciousness than it has in decades, McCain comes before the electorate doctrinally adrift. ...
How to explain the McCain campaign's glaring contradictions on economic policy? ... One problem is that McCain himself has no real ideas about how to fix the economy... An even deeper problem is that standard-issue Republican economic policy has run out of plausible mantras. The ritual extolling of markets and denigration of government make no sense at a moment when a conservative Republican administration is rushing to save the markets through governmental intervention.
Or, to use Reagan's construction: Republican economics is not the solution to our problem; Republican economics is the problem -- for our nation, surely, and also for candidate McCain.