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It takes an economist to move me to write. I’m listening to NPR this morning after dropping the kids with their grandparents and on comes a Bank of America economist. He begins to bemoan the largest deficits this country has ever run in peacetime.

Get it? Peacetime. 

Last I checked, the US military was active in two countries that, while few people prefer to use the term “at war,” can not be described as peaceful: Iraq and Afghanistan.

I guess they fed the kool-aid to the “economists” as well as the risk managers at BofA. Maybe they should check back into the reality-based community once in a while.

But what’s equally maddening is that the NPR reporter seemed to let the “peacetime” comment pass without, uh, comment. Journos love to bring on the experts when they need perspective, but they don’t always like to ask the experts tough questions. That would just complicate things.

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Under increasing pressure, John McCain today released a detailed plan outlining how he would pay for the United States’ continued military presence in Iraq.

The Republican presidential candidate has come under fire recently for proposing expensive foreign-policy solutions but not offering a way to pay for them.

You’ll immediately note how absurd that sounds. Who’s asking McCain to come up with a way to pay for foreign military adventures? No one. It’s a given that we pay for them, even if we have to borrow every last penny from China and Japan. Don’t expect Barack Obama to get the same pass when the question of health care, mortgage assistance, unemployment benefits or any other sort of domestic program comes up.

Military adventures, no matter how worthwhile or necessary to public safety they may be, cost money. Why don’t reporters and voters ask how we pay for those with the same intensity and knee-jerk persistence with which they demand comprehensive plans for domestic spending?

Asking how you pay for something isn’t the same as questioning whether it’s worth having, although our elected leaders often try to make people think they are.

It’s an interesting double standard, no?

All this talk about Bush and his daddy is hogwash. The man he really wants to outdo is John McCain. How else do you explain Bush’s belated admission that global warming is real, following so closely a big speech by McCain on the same subject?

McCain won kudos for breaking with Bush and his own party way back on Monday. But it seems that Bush doesn’t want McCain to top him in the history books any more now than he did during the South Carolina primary in 2000. The pair have walked hand in hand on Iraq, with McCain lending an air of authority to Bush’s decisions. Maybe Bush is a little hurt that McCain is seen as abandoning him on global warming.

Why would Bush be more obsessed with McCain than with his own dad? Consider first that the elder Bush probably wasn’t around much during the younger’s childhood. It would have been natural for W. to look outside for a father-figure. McCain probably isn’t the first to fill that role.

Much has been made of Bush the son following in his dad’s Air Force footsteps. But McCain also was a pilot — who made a name for himself in the very war Bush avoided.

Maybe it’s all just psychobabble, but I can’t help scratching my head about these two Republican leaders both acknowledging the reality of global warming in the same week. It has to be more than coincidence. I can understand why McCain did it — he’s been a consistent supporter of climate-change legislation. Bush has had seven years to think about it. Why now?

If I were Barack Obama there’s one thing I’d be worried about from last night’s debate in Philadelphia. Yes, he deflected questions about Pastor Wright and “bitter-gate” with dexterity and he was relatively forthright in addressing them. Obama’s been fairly successful at insisting on a new kind of politics that doesn’t tar people with guilt by association. It’s an admirable stand and it’s been effective.

But, to my mind (and I can’t be the only one who noticed), he seemed far less confident, and even appeared to stumble, in addressing questions about Iran.

Now, I was assembling a child’s wagon while I watched the debate, so take this with a grain of salt. But Obama’s response to the Iran question caught my attention. He didn’t seem as forthright or as together in his answer as did Hillary Clinton. Sure, there were holes in her logic (we could barely get France under the security umbrella of NATO. How will we ever convince Iran and countries like it to do anything similar?). But she at least seemed to have a coherent, well-considered position.  No one doubts John McCain will offer the same . I didn’t get the same impression from Obama from last night’s debate.

Why does this even matter? Isn’t this election about the economy, about the war in Iraq, about change, blah blah blab? I guess. But unforeseen foreign-policy crises are often what define a presidency. Hardly anyone was discussing Iraq or terrorism in 2000 but they’ve dominated the last seven years and affected practically everything else we do.

Iran might not present a crisis for the next president, but Obama’s stumble on it tells me he either isn’t thinking seriously about foreign policy or doesn’t have very good advisers on those issues. It’s one area where a short, largely domestic resume, might haunt him.