John McCain has change of heart! Washington really doesn’t need him after all!
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ended three days of suspense on Friday morning and announced that he will leave bailout negotiations in Washington and fly to Oxford, Miss., for tonight’s opening presidential debate
McCain had previously said that he would suspend his campaign—and so would not attend the debate—until an agreement was reached on the administration’s $700 billion mortgage proposal.
No such agreement has been reached, but Republicans said the standoff was hurting McCain’s campaign and that he would look terrible if he didn’t attend the nationally televised, eagerly anticipated debate, while Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was ready to go on stage.
There’s no agreement. No plan. Talks broke down so bad last night Secy. of the Treasury Henry Paulson was on one knee “half-jokingly,” begging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to not go before the press and call out the House Republicans for stalling on the bill.
As he got down on one knee to lighten the mood, Pelosi joked back, “I didn’t know you were a Catholic.”
Paulson was afraid her statement could cause the markets to go into free fall Friday.
After all that “straight talk,” McCain has found himself on a plane straight to Mississippi for a debate of destiny with Barack Obama. In this game of chicken of McCain versus Obama, the presidential debates commission and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi, it was McCain who blinked. Despite his staff (surprisingly still working despite his campaign being “suspended”) who came out to say that it was Obama who’s “grandstanding” derailed the White House talks
McCain’s campaign said the meeting “devolved into a contentious shouting match” and implied Obama was at fault — on a day when McCain said he was putting politics aside to focus on the nation’s financial problems.
But, yeah. This battle was always his to win or lose and Nancy Pelosi has (of course) declared McCain the loser.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took on the notion that John McCain has helped in the federal bailout negotiations Friday, calling the Arizona senator’s involvement “a blip.”
“He hasn’t been involved in this, and now, as there’s some discussion about putting this off, I don’t think that we can do that,” Pelosi said on “Good Morning America.”
“I think Sen. McCain’s involvement is sort of a blip.”
Pelosi called Thursday’s meeting with the president, congressional leaders and the presidential candidates “disruptive” to the negotiations “because we had to begin writing the bill.”
“We can’t take the bill to the floor until the bill is written, and we were on a path to that. It took a whole afternoon. And that time is important to us,” Pelosi said.
Describing the phone call she received from McCain shortly before he suspended his campaign, Pelosi told reporters during her weekly press conference that the Arizona senator “said that he was calling because nothing was happening, and there was no progress being made on all of this; he was calling a meeting, and would I come” …
“Well, Senator, I have good news for you,” Pelosi responded. “Quite a bit has been done. The deliberations are going forward, and we make progress every day, and I don’t see any reason for us to come to a meeting based on a premise that nothing is being done, because plenty is. We’re moving in a forward direction, and we’d like to keep on our path to get that done.”
Others agreed, saying McCain did little-to-nothing to help the process. Some even accusing him of hindering progress. But it may be that this was all just a Category 5 failure among all the rebelling GOP members.
From Think Progress:
Bailout negotiations “dissolved into a verbal brawl” at the White House yesterday, as some House Republicans, led by Eric Cantor (R-VA), said they wouldn’t back a bipartisan negotiation on the package. The House GOP faction stunned the participants at the meeting yesterday by announcing their own plan which “advocates tax cuts and relaxed regulations.”
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said the House GOP proposal would not work. “Democratic leaders questioned McCain’s involvement in the House Republicans’ opposition to the plan.” McCain met with House GOP leaders before heading to the White House, but neither party seemed to know what they were talking about:
Boehner and McCain discussed the bailout plan, but Republican leadership aides described the conversation as somewhat surreal. Neither man was familiar with the details of the proposal being pressed by House conservatives, and up to the moment they departed for the White House yesterday afternoon, neither
had seen any description beyond news reports.
Think Progress reports that at the bipartisan meeting McCain didn’t speak “until 43 minutes into” it. That the candidate “sat silently for more than 40 minutes … then offered only a vague sense of where he stood.”
Sen. Chris Dodd said, “Instead of being a rescue plan for our economy it was a rescue plan for John McCain.” Sen. Chuck Schumer urged Bush to “respectfully tell Sen. McCain to get out of town. He’s not helping.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid added, “We had [Republican] Senator [Bob] Bennett, a high ranking official, who said these are the principles. And then, guess who came to town? And it all fell apart.”
Fellow Republicans, White House Press Secy. Dana Perino and Independent Democrat and McCain BFF Joe Lieberman all tried to talk up the work McCain did in half-ass suspending his campaign and sort of rushing to Washington on his white horse to save the day.
Lieberman said McCain “felt that yesterday the best thing he could do is to listen and then try to work with all sides to make that happen. That’s what he was doing all day yesterday.”
But some folks had to admit, the turnabout did not look good.
The action contradicted the position McCain had taken Wednesday, when he announced, “I’m directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the Commission on Presidential Debates to delay Friday night’s debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.”
McCain had also said he would suspend all campaign activities, but in reality the campaign just shifted to Washington while the work of trying to win the election went on
McCain had taken a gamble with the move, trying to appear above politics and as a leader on an issue that had overshadowed the presidential campaign and given him trouble. But Democratic rival Barack Obama had not bowed to McCain’s challenge, and instead questioned why the Republican nominee couldn’t handle two things at once — the debate and involvement in the bailout negotiations.
An Associated Press-Knowledge Networks poll out Friday just before McCain’s announcement showed the public overwhelmingly wanted the candidates to debate, 60 percent to 22 percent, with the rest undecided …
By Friday morning, it appeared McCain was looking for a face-saving way to get to the debate even though a deal had not been reached. He met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, before heading to his campaign headquarters and issuing a statement that blamed others in Washington for the failure to reach an agreement …
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a McCain supporter, said the Republican made a “huge mistake” by even discussing canceling the debate.
John McCain blinked and as Sarah Palin has taught us you cannot blink. There is NO blinking allowed. But don’t fret. Not everyone thought McCain batted his eyelashes at the matter.
“It’s tempting to say that he blinked, but it’s not like he was squaring off against someone and finally gave in. If anything, he was squaring off against himself,” wrote Jed Lewison in his piece for The Huffington Post, aptly titled, “Humiliation.”
What will this change of plans mean? And what does it mean when former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is calling you out saying it was a “huge mistake” that McCain even discussed skipping the debate?
“You can’t just say, ‘World, stop for a moment. I’m going to cancel everything,'” Huckabee told reporters Thursday night in Alabama before attending a benefit for the University of Mobile. He said it’s more important for voters to hear from the presidential candidates than for them to huddle with fellow senators in Washington
I actually feel a little sorry for McCain because there was not a lot he could realistically do (nor could Obama). Neither were on the commerce committee. The most they could do was try to rally the troops and vote. Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had their team in place and on message (which is shocking considering we’re talking about Democrats. These people tend to either eat their young or butcher it all).
McCain talked favorably of the plan on the trail, but returned to Capitol Hill with a House Republican mutiny on the President’s hands. George and Vice President Cheney no longer have the cache to whip them into line. The Hammer, bka Tom Delay wasn’t their to make them cry and vote the way he wanted. And former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich seems to be cheering on the mutiny.
So what was McCain to do? The recalcitrant, somewhat newish House Republicans weren’t interested in bowing to him. House Minority Leader John Boehner is accusing the White House of trying to bully them into voting for a bill they don’t believe in. So who does McCain side with? The populist Republican rebellion in the House or the White House, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke? Both come with risks.
Choose the rebels and he gets to maintain his maverick cred, but he also has to face the uncertainty of what the markets will do the longer Congress goes without passing a plan. Overnight Washington Mutual became the largest bank to collapse in US history. More banks are set to fail the longer this goes on. If the market goes into free fall he could get blamed.
But on the other hand, if Johnny Mac goes with the President and the plan the Democrats negotiated for, he could anger his base, alienate a sizable chuck of House Republicans and once again, be tied to President Bush. And it doesn’t matter that Obama is signing on to this same crazy plan. Obama has a (D) after his title. It’s McCain who gets hung by Bush every time — especially if the bailout doesn’t stop the bleeding.
And the reality for all of us, whether you’re pro- or anti-bailout — there are no good options. Do nothing, the markets will fall and more banks will fail. Do the bailout and inflation could skyrocket as we would have to devalue our currency as the Treasury prints more money to flood our market with, making the dollar ever more worthless. This could have dire consequences for food and fuel p
rices. But do nothing and the credit industry will lock up. Banks won’t loan each other money. Banks won’t loan us money. And without credit businesses would find themselves unable to meet payroll and then, God only knows.
We’re in it bad whether you only have a pound or a ton. If you’ve got a 401K or a pension, you’re in trouble. If your place of employment is having a tough year, you’re in trouble. If you’re banking some place other than Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, you’re in trouble. If you’re still paying on a mortgage, you’re in trouble.
I hope McCain and Obama will discuss the economy at length tonight. I’ve got questions. I hope they have answers.
Photos by The Associated Press and The New York Times