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!”


  1. 1
    Christopher says:


    The Old Coot let slip if there isn’t a vote on the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street criminal thugs, he wants the first presidential debate to replace the vice presidential debate.

    In other words, McCandy is performing so poorly with her surrogate Biden, that the Old Coot is terrified of what McCandy might say and what the real Joe Biden will do to her in the debate.

    This stall tactic is all about trying to kill the vice presidential debate and stave off the embarrassment that his campaign will suffer.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I wonder if he is only trying to delay the VP debate to a less prominent date, and to give Palin more time. To totally cancel the debate will only lead to more stories about Palin not being ready and avoiding answering questions. They are better off if they do debate after they have changed the format to reduce the chances of her getting into serious trouble. If she just shows up and avoids making any serious gaffes she beats expectations.

    Besides, Biden is capable of making plenty of gaffes himself. They are different types. Palin says dumb things due to not knowing about the issues. Biden manages to make less meaningful gaffes, but they could still wind up receiving coverage if he does this during a debate.

    I also wonder if they might not like the speculation that they are trying to cancel the VP debate. If people think they are afraid to have Palin debate at all, she might beat expectations just by showing up.

    Regarding Palin, it also worked to his advantage to do the interview with Couric, reducing coverage of Palin’s interview. Fortunately Letterman didn’t let him get away with this. While he reduced the harm from Palin’s interview, the direct criticism of him from Letterman hurt far more, considering that McCain looking bad is a far more serious problem than Palin looking bad.

  3. 3
    Christopher says:

    Could be.

    However, this broad doesn’t know what she’s talking about and I think she would need a year or two in order to debate on a national level.

    About the Couric interview, did you see Letterman? Ouch.

    He hammered the Old Coot for 90 minutes. Not a good sign. Letterman had been pretty nice to him during the campaign but fortunes have turned.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    The post after this is on Letterman including video highlights.

  5. 5
    Kasey says:

    I think that McCain and Palin are digging a deep hole for themselves with out any help from the Democrats!
    Thanks Letterman for bringing out the truth about John McCain The Maverick Liar.

  6. 6
    EVELYN says:

    so glad to see Dave Letterman,on McCain’s trail, and caught him in his lie’s.
    keep up the good work Letterman

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