Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain takes another gamble

This is extraordinary:

John McCain has said he is suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to help deal with the economic crisis. And he called for a TV debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama, scheduled for Friday, to be delayed.

Will people take this seriously? Might they think he’s running scared? Does he really mean it or does he just think that ‘focusing on the issues’ will play well? Do two senators – presidential candidates they may be, but with no special constitutional role – matter that much in getting this legislation through? Is he trying to grab credit for a deal on the banking bail-out that in some shape or form would happen anyway?

Can Obama accept without looking like he’s ceded the initiative? Can he refuse without looking like he’d rather campaign than save the economy? Can he argue that a would-be president should be able to handle legislative deal-making as well as preparing for a debate?

Grr. I was looking forward to watching the debate. Was planning to stay up late with a beer and liveblog it.

Update 20 mins later: Obama’s going back to Washington as well to work on this, but still wants the debate to go ahead. A random thought: maybe they could have the VP debate on Friday instead...?


Andrew R said...

Obama has replied:

"With respect to the debates, it’s my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess. And I think that it is going to be part of the president’s job to deal with more than one thing at once."

It's a good answer. McCain's plan was apparently to suspend campaigning for three days only and be back on the trail by Monday. That's a) an impressively short deadline for fixing an economy and b) just long enough to miss the first debate. Co-incidentally.

Tom Freeman said...

True. Obama coan surely spin this as a choice between talks behind closed doors among Washington insiders and an open debate involving The American People...

Chris said...

As is so often the case with the Democrats, they laid themselves wide open for this one by suggesting that it was within McCain's powers to make or break the negotiations. Difficult to claim now that his presence is pointless.

It is risky because McCain can't count on the Republicans to do what he says or on getting the right responses from the press. But I'm not sure about Obama's response - if McCain goes in and Republican objections go away while Democrats are still negotiating then they look foolish and partisan. Claims that it's silly to try to solve the economy in three days also look as if they're trying to minimize the importance of the bailout itself and getting it done now. The dealing with more than one thing line is better, but is appearing in a joint press conference really one of the important parts of a president's job?

Would this have been a bad move if Obama had done it? I imagine the reactions would have been different - at the very least, it might have been seen as Change.