In the wake of several new polls showing Barack Obama's lead widening inthe presidential race--which has been attributed to the public's perception that he is the better candidate on the economy--John McCain has made a stunning announcement.
He has requested that their foreign-policy themed debate, long scheduledfor this Friday, be postponed so that he and Senator Obama can reacha bipartisan solution to the ongoing economic crisis. Here is an excerptfrom McCain's statement:
Last Friday, I laid out my proposal and I have sincediscussed my priorities and concerns with the bill the Administrationhas put forward. Senator Obama has expressed his priorities andconcerns. This morning, I met with a group of economic advisers to talkabout the proposal on the table and the steps that we should take goingforward. I have also spoken with members of Congress to hear theirperspective.
It has become clear that no consensus has developed tosupport the Administration's proposal. I do not believe that the plan onthe table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out oftime.
Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return toWashington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I havespoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have askedhim to join me.
Now, it's unclear to me what "suspending" his campaign will actuallyentail. Will McCain pull down his widely rebuked and discredited ad campaign? Will he stop holding fundraisers until a bailout agreement is reached? Something about this feels, oh I don't know, desperate.
Today's Washington Post/ABC News poll hasObama up by nine, erasing whatever progress McCain seemed to be makingwith white women and proving the Democrat has all the momentum leadinginto the debates. Unlike John Kerry, who limped into his faceoffs withGeorge W. Bush after weeks of Swiftboat pummeling, Obama is relativelyunscathed and popular right now. Bush is at 19 percent approval, nearly90 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track andSarah Palin either can't or isn't allowed to answer questions at anygiven moment.
McCain must have been thinking, "I have to do something! Somethingmaverick-y!" He has proven to be a master of short term solutions.Whether it's the surge, drilling to solve the gas price crisis, firingthe SEC chairman or picking Sarah Palin--virtually every McCain decisionis based on short term goals and satisfaction.
I know, I know, John McCain is a great American hero and incapable ofmaking a decision like this for purely cynical, political reasons--butbear with me on this. It has been something of an open secret all week that McCain hasn't really been spending all that much time preparing for this Friday's debate where reportedly Obama's aides are putting himthrough the wringer. Could it be that McCain was starting to get coldfeet? Not to mention the fact that he and his campaign are under fireright now for his campaign manager Rick Davis' ties toFannie Mae. Turns out he was getting paid indirectly by the mortgagegiant as recently as last month--a reality McCain recently emphaticallydenied.
Then again, the McCain campaign has been all about denying realitylately. That way they can say the New York Times, a newspaperthat enthusiastically endorsed John McCain during the GOP primaries, isan arm of the Obama campaign, no different than the Huffington Post. McCainappears to be running a dartboard campaign. Just throw whatever you canup there and see what sticks. This move may just work, voters may thinkMcCain has their best interests at heart...but then why did he wait until now to call for bipartisanship? As I writethis he's running ads accusing Obama of being MIA on the bailout debate(even though Obama submitted to a lengthy press conference on thesubject just yesterday, while McCain and especially Palin have largelyrefused to be questioned at length about it.) It doesn't makesense, but then again, McCain rarely does.
UPDATE: Just when you thought the McCain campaign couldn't get any more absurd and melodramatic. There's this:
(CNN) -- McCain supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham tells CNN the McCain campaign is proposing to the Presidential Debate Commission and the Obama camp that if there's no bailout deal by Friday, the first presidential debate should take the place of the VP debate, currently scheduled for next Thursday, October 2 in St. Louis.
In this scenario, the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin would be rescheduled for a date yet to be determined, and take place in Oxford, Mississippi, currently slated to be the site of the first presidential faceoff this Friday.
Graham says the McCain camp is well aware of the position of the Obama campaign and the debate commission that the debate should go on as planned -- but both he and another senior McCain adviser insist the Republican nominee will not go to the debate Friday if there's no deal on the bailout.
Am I wrong or is this all politically unprecedented? I consider myself a decent student of American history and I don't recall ever hearing of a political campaign trying to literally bring the process to a halt in the final weeks, at the very instant they start to fall solidly behind. This isn't the Oscars, this is the presidential election! If Sarah Palin and John McCain are behind in the polls and not ready to debate--so be it. This shouldn't be intruding on the debate within Congress about how we ought to deal with our nation's financial crisis. This is just getting insulting.
UPDATE II: Check out this astonishingly bad interview with Sarah Palin (Yes, Palin speaks and takes questions!). Besides proving yet again the utter shallowness of her knowledge on basic issues she also makes the absurd suggestion that Americans are waiting for John McCain alone to weigh in on the bailout and lead the debate on what should be done.
When pressed by Katie Couric to come up with a single example of some economics reform McCain has brought about in two decades in the senate, Palin goes blank and says, "I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you!" No wonder the McCain campaign wants to take some time off. See Palin's crazy deer in the headlights interview below:
UPDATE III: Brian Williams just reported on NBC that McCain is threatening to not show up at Friday's debate if a bailout consensus is not reached by that day! Can Obama still get the free airtime to debate an empty chair?