John McCain’s Desperation Effort To Avoid Debating Barack Obama

First John McCain began avoiding the press. Now he is attempting to avoid debating Barack Obama as planned for Friday–just at a time when it is crucial that voters get a chance to hear from the two candidates. McCain’s call to return to Washington, where he has been AWOL for months, was a transparent political gambit, or as Joe Klein calls it, Gimmicks ‘R’ Us.

The presence of  John McCain, who just last week was arguing that the fundamentals of the economy are sound, is hardly needs to rush back to Washington because of this crisis. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid advised McCain to stay away and proceed with the debate:

This is a critical time for our country. While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the Administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis.

I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.

If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.

The financial crisis was the equivalent of the 3:00 a.m. phone call in the Hillary Clinton commercials, regardless of time of day. McCain failed the test and has been falling in the polls, leading to such desperation measures. You can’t just call time out when their is a crisis. As Matthew Yglesias points out, “walking and chewing gum at the same time is part of the president’s job.”

McCain is trying to get credit for looking like a problem solver on the issue, but it is actually Obama who first reached out to McCain. Obama’s campaign issued this statement:

At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details.

Despite claims of suspending the campaign, Andrew Sullivan argues that once again McCain is lying about suspending the campaign. Marc Ambinder tries to sort out exactly what is to be suspended here and here.

This gimmick is only fooling the die hard McCain apologists. Even The National Review is mocking McCain suggesting that since Obama wants to proceed with the debate, “they’d like McCain to just offer Palin step in for him.” More seriously they comment:

Some of this is a lot of nonsense, but if I’m just getting home from work and I only pay casual attention to these debates, Obama sounds reasonable and less gimmicky than McCain.

He says that there is no reason why we can’t do more than one thing at once. Obama says it is “more important than ever” to have a debate.

Obama says he called McCain this morning and announced that he wanted to do a no-politics-as-usual joint statement about addressing the market mess. He says that McCain wanted to insist on meeting with the president and congressional leaders too. Obama says Obama said: Let’s do the statement, go from there. Obama says he thought McCain was thinking about the joint statement, working on with staff, when McCain went on TV. So now Obama is on TV.

Obama says he’s told Pelosi, Reid, and Paulson that “if I can be helpful, I am prepared to be [in dc] anytime” but I don’t want to infuse presidential politics on the hill and goes on about how presidents need to be able to multitask.

Obama may win this campaign moment yet. If McCain protests, he looks petty

Besides such comments from conservatives, you know that a gimmick is backfiring against McCain when the late night comedians begin joking about it. Drudge reports that David Letterman is mocking McCain’s cancellation of the debates:

David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, “Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?”

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, “You don’t suspend your campaign. This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves.” And he joked: “I think someone’s putting something in his metamucil.”

“He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?”

“What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!”

Desperate McCain Attacks Media and Polls

What does one do when they are wrong on all the issues, an increasing number of news reports come out showing a serious conflict of interest on the part of his campaign manager, and the polls show he is losing? For John McCain the answer is obvious–attack the press and the pollsters.

John McCain attacked The New York Times for reporting that campaign manager Rick Davis was paid by Freddie Mac until last month. As Ben Smith points out,

The statement is basically a non-denial…

What  the statement doesn’t dispute is the actual news in the story: the $15,000 monthly payments from Freddie Mac, which began while Davis was still running the firm. You can judge the news value of that for yourself.

Marc Ambinder points out that while McCain concentrates on attacking The New York Times, “The Times was but one of three news entities who reported the same story this morning.”

John McCain also attacked a Washington Post-ABC News poll which showed Obama extending his lead to 52% to 43%. Several other polls are also showing increased gains for Obama. It has become even harder for McCain to ignore the polls now that a new Fox News Poll has Obama leading 45% to 39%. Chris Cillizza believes that his poor showing in the polls is the reason behind McCain’s attempt to avoid debating Barack Obama as scheduled on Friday.

Bill Clinton Respects High Holy Days

I recently noted Bill Clinton’s weak support for Barack Obama. We have an explanation, if you buy it. The Politico quotes from this interview between Clinton and Larry King where the question is addressed:

KING: And you’re going to vigorously campaign, is that a correct word, vigorous?

CLINTON: Yes, I think that’s fair. I wanted to get, first after Hillary concluded her campaign, except for the convention, I needed to go back to work for my foundation. You know, we had this Global Initiative coming up and I have projects all over the world.

I just got back from my annual trip to Africa. And so I needed to go back to work. And I wanted to really deal with the Global Initiative in the context of all of these economic challenges, to try to make it non-political.

I invited Senator McCain and Senator Obama to both come. They were both making appearances there. And I’ve done everything I could to try to get everybody there without regard to party or philosophy to think about what we should all be doing in America and around the world.

But when this is over, and after the Jewish holidays, which follow close on it, I intend to go to Florida, to Ohio, to northeast Pennsylvania, and to Nevada at a minimum. I may do events in Arkansas depending on what the Democratic Party does down there. And I’ve agreed to do some fundraising for them in California and New York.

KING: Do they ask you, go here, go there?


KING: All right. (INAUDIBLE). Are you kind of feeling Jewish that you’re waiting until after the Jewish holidays?

CLINTON: No. But I think it would be — if we’re trying to win in Florida, it may be that — you know, they think that because of who I am and where my politic base has traditionally been, they may want me to go sort of hustle up what Lawton Chiles used to call the cracker vote there.

But Senator Obama also has a big stake in doing well in the Jewish community in Florida, where Hillary did very well and where I did very well. And I just think respecting the holidays is a good thing to do.

KING: I was just having a little fun.

CLINTON: I know.

I guess I should stop blogging until after Yom Kippur. If you listen to Clinton you might think the whole country, especially Arkansas, was shut down through the holidays. Perhaps now that he has blown his reputation as the first black president he is trying to retroactively become the first Jewish ex-president.

Hiding Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin, and to a lesser degree John McCain, hiding from the media has now become the big story. NBC ran the story above. At CBS News’ blog Scott Conroy writes that Palin Camp Goes to New Lengths to Shut Out Media:

She has been a candidate for the second highest office in the land for nearly a month, but Sarah Palin has yet to hold a single press conference. Now, the McCain/Palin campaign is attempting to take an unprecedented step in their apparent effort to protect Palin from having to face impromptu questions from national reporters.

Last night, the campaign provided locations for Palin’s scheduled meetings with two world leaders and Henry Kissinger to a network TV producer, who was assigned to provide editorial content on the meetings for the five television networks. The reporter was not going to be allowed to sit in on the private meetings but would be permitted to be on hand as still and video photographers took pictures at the beginning of each meeting.

But just a little more than an hour before Palin’s first meeting was set to begin, the pool producer was notified that he would not be allowed in to the photo spray. This means that the McCain/Palin campaign would get the benefit of free pictures of Palin’s meeting with world leaders without having to face the possibility that the candidate might have to answer a question from the media.

Television networks, including CBS News maintain a policy that if they are prevented from having an editorial presence at an event, they will not allow cameras to shoot it.

The McCain/Palin campaign’s effort to stifle editorial coverage of the candidate’s meetings with world leaders comes a week after CBS News asked Palin an impromptu question about the AIG bailout, while Palin made an off-the-record stop at a Cleveland diner.

After the Cleveland event, a Palin staffer told CBS News that questions “weren’t allowed.”

Jeffery Goldberg asks What Is The McCain Camp Hiding and wonders, “What will happen, God forbid, if Sarah Palin is forced into a position where she will have to meet someone who is not so nice? Such as, say, the prime minister of Spain?”

It is pretty clear what they are trying to hide, without much success. Besides her lack of understanding of the issues (or of the real world) they also must fear any situation where there will be follow up on all the lies she has told. They realize they made a terrible mistake in picking Sarah Palin but cannot admit to this. She must be far worse than we first suspected if they believe the risk of negative coverage from her speaking to the press is worse than the coverage they are receiving for their avoidance of the press.