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!”