There's nothing like a 504-point free fall in the Dow Jones Industrial Average to clear the mind and lead voters to set aside debate over such critical issues as lipstick on pigs and Gov. Sarah Palin's dismissal of the man who refused to fire her state trooper ex-brother-in-law.
The country now seems ready to focus on such previously peripheral issues as the staggering economy, job losses, home foreclosures, gasoline prices and the Bush administration's wholesale gutting of the regulatory agencies that were established to protect Americans from robber barons, health hazards and the destruction of the environment.
What a difference a bad day can make. Suddenly we're treated to the spectacle of Sen. John McCain conducting another of his patented 180-degree repositionings, this time from rabid deregulator to rabid re-regulator, especially when it comes to the latest generation of Wall Street predators.
McCain demonstrates such remarkable flexibility for a man his age that he eventually may strip away the last shreds of King George’s robes and run naked into the uncertain future.
Who knows? We might even find ourselves paying a little more attention to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a little less attention to Gov. Palin’s unmarried and pregnant 17-year-old daughter.
The equivalent of that 504-point drop in the Dow may be coming in Iraq, despite the Republicans' declarations that "the surge worked" and that peace is at hand.
Tensions between Kurds and Sunni Muslim Arabs are building in oil-rich Kirkuk and Mosul in the north, and in Sunni Anbar province, where American forces are handing off responsibility for security to the Iraqi government and army, Sunni-Shiite friction is mounting again.
The Shiite-dominated central government promptly outlawed the Sunni territory's Awakening Councils — local groups who've been pivotal in shutting down al Qaida in Iraq and ending the Sunni insurgents' attacks on American troops — and ordered the arrest of hundreds of key figures behind the turnaround in Anbar.
The self-pacification of Anbar comprises at least half the good news and good results that the Bush administration, McCain and their allies claim for the temporary surge in the number of American troops in Iraq, but the frailty of that good news should be lost on no one.
This week, Army Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq and the architect of the surge, moved on to become the new commander of the U.S. Central Command. As he left, Petraeus candidly warned that the gains of the past eight months are fragile.
President Bush, meanwhile, was orchestrating a slow-motion drawdown of some of the 140,000 American troops in Iraq — there'll be 8,000 fewer sometime after he leaves office next January — and an equally slow reinforcement of U.S. forces fighting the resurgent Taliban guerrillas and the real al Qaida in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where an additional 15,000 American troops will be deployed.
But I digress.
Republican presidential nominee McCain was doing his best to sound, well, presidential, albeit Bush presidential, as he expressed confidence in the underlying strength of the American economy and the productivity of American workers, at least those who haven't lost their jobs yet.
He vowed that when he becomes president, he'd appoint a 9/11 Commission to get to the bottom of how the "social contract between capitalism and the American worker" was frayed and shredded by the greed and rapacity of Wall Street.
McCain neglected to mention that for most of the last eight years, a Republican president and a Republican Congress aided and abetted this shocking development. Bowing at the free market altar, Republican politicians caponized, neutered and rendered toothless the regulatory agencies that were established to protect the public from predatory capitalism — all while accepting fat campaign contributions from the predators.
Nor was there mention of the fact that nearly eight years of George W. Bush has made the very rich very much richer and put the bedrock of this nation, its broad middle class, very much at risk of falling through the cracks his administration has pried open in the floor beneath their feet.
Clearly there isn't much good news for the McCain campaign in this week's real news when the candidate is on record in full support of two long-running and very expensive wars and seemingly in favor of further military adventures in the Middle East and elsewhere.
McCain’s opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, didn't have to say much. The headlines were suddenly doing all the talking for him as the bills for all that greed began coming due, and the long-suffering American taxpayers and workers who got screwed by the robber barons are now expected to rescue their sinking pirate ships.
The Republican nominee may soon find himself running naked down Constitution Avenue shouting that the emperor has no clothes.