We wanted to know what single economic threat he perceives above all others.Though we're still wondering where Bin Laden is, this new information from the McCain campaign indicates that wherever he is, he's sitting around his cave or tent staring at the satellite 'phone, anxiously awaiting a call from his handler(s) at the CIA, Republican Party HQ, the Office of Special Projects at the Pentagon, or someone in the so-called shadow gov't. of the national security establishment. Keep watching the skies! Or the sewers! Or maybe the oceans!! Or Canada!!
McCain at first says nothing. He sits in the corner of a sofa, one black, tasseled loafer propped against a coffee table. We're in the presidential suite on the 41st floor of the New York Hilton. McCain has come here - between a major speech on the economy in Washington, D.C., this morning and a fundraiser tonight at the 21 Club - to talk to us and to let us take his picture. He is wearing a dark suit, as he almost always does, with a blue shirt and a wine-colored tie. He's looking not at us but into the void. His eyes are narrowed. Nine seconds of silence, ten seconds, 11. Finally he says, "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."
Not America's dependence on foreign oil? Not climate change? Not the crushing cost of health care? Eventually McCain gets around to mentioning all three of those. But he starts by deftly turning the economy into a national security issue - and why not? On national security McCain wins. We saw how that might play out early in the campaign, when one good scare, one timely reminder of the chaos lurking in the world, probably saved McCain in New Hampshire, a state he had to win to save his candidacy - this according to McCain's chief strategist, Charlie Black. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December was an "unfortunate event," says Black. "But his knowledge and ability to talk about it reemphasized that this is the guy who's ready to be Commander-in-Chief. And it helped us." As would, Black concedes with startling candor after we raise the issue, another terrorist attack on U.S. soil. "Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," says Black.