Well, we've all had a day to digest the latest "razzle dazzle" - as Chris Matthews likes to say - from the McCain campaign. So how is it spinning? Does it look like McCain made the right decision or did his latest attempt to shake up the campaign backfire big time?
Reading through today's editorials and analysis, I can't help but think that this is going to be a worse week for McCain than we realize. Pretty much across the board, the reaction is that this was a desperate move that is not going to end well for McCain.
E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post:
McCain could yet play a constructive role by rounding up votes from restive Republicans. Oddly, the biggest obstacle to a bill may not be Democrats but Republicans who refuse to go along with their own president. And -- yes, there is an election coming -- Democrats will be wary of going forward unless a substantial number of Republicans join them.
But McCain's boisterous intervention -- and particularly his grandstanding on the debate -- was less a presidential act than the tactical ploy of a man worried that his chances of becoming president might be slipping away.
Delco Times (PA) Editorial, There's no dispute, McCain should debate:
Apparently, Thursday's White House summit failed to reach any breakthrough in the negotiations. Members of Congress are expected to be working into this morning to hammer out a deal.
That being said, there's no reason why John McCain and Barack Obama can't go to the University of Mississippi tonight for their debate. Americans go to the polls in 38 days to decide who has to inherit this mess. They deserve to take the measure of the men who would take that mantle.
Evansville Courier & Press (IN) Editorial:
McCain's action was a diversionary tactic and a rather crass one at that. He was not one of the key Senate negotiators needed to hammer out a congressional deal on the bailout. He could vote up-or-down on the bill and still debate.
No, McCain's duty and obligation is to be at the debate site, with Obama, so Americans can assess each candidate's ability, grasp of the issues and reasoning skills.
David Brooks at the NY Times waxes nostalgic about the old McCain, recites his many past accomplishments, and then accuses him of relying on "tactical gimmicks":
No, what disappoints me about the McCain campaign is it has no central argument. I had hoped that he would create a grand narrative explaining how the United States is fundamentally unprepared for the 21st century and how McCain’s worldview is different.
McCain has not made that sort of all-encompassing argument, so his proposals don’t add up to more than the sum of their parts. Without a groundbreaking argument about why he is different, he’s had to rely on tactical gimmicks to stay afloat. He has no frame to organize his response when financial and other crises pop up.
Matt Welch, Los Angeles Times, has a great opinion piece detailing the history of McCain's ol' razzle-dazzle. It's worth reading the entire piece:
But as many Great Men come to learn, there is a colossal downside built into running a campaign on outsized personal virtue. The line between stoic, honorable service and showy moral vanity is oftentimes difficult to maintain. And when a candidate confuses his own political ambitions with the fortunes of his country, that's when Great Men turn into self-parodies.
"I have craved distinction in my life," McCain wrote in his 2002 political memoir, "Worth the Fighting For." "I have wanted renown and influence for their own sake. That is, of course, the great temptation of public life. ... I have never been able to conquer it permanently, but I have tried."
Don't say he didn't warn us.
I truly have been looking for some Friday print reaction to John McCain that is favorable, and I thought I came across one when I found an editorial entitled "The Maverick" from The Barre Montpelier Times Argus (VT), but alas this one was negative too:
And that leads to perhaps the biggest reason McCain, the self-styled maverick, called a temporary halt to his campaign: Polls are now showing that Barack Obama has pulled ahead in the race for the White House and that the numbers are clearly moving his way. Perhaps the American people are fed up with candidates who rely too heavily on negative depictions of their opponents while unapologetically telling outright lies to dress up their own campaigns.
Even Chris Coffey, Republican strategist who writes on the Faux News blog, Fox Forum, didn't sound very positive:
Ultimatums are delivered to defenseless foes, not to vital opponents. They are a form of intimidation intended to trigger subservience. That is why McCain now risks looking like a duplicitous bully with little interest in bipartisan cooperation, even though he has spent a lifetime cultivating the opposite image.
Whatever the case, the McCain campaign has put itself in the unique position of being unable to campaign before an election. Suspension means suspension. If one staffer shows up for work, this whole gamble turns into a media stunt. I hope I am wrong and that this wager pays.
But never fear, the analysts and pundits aren't forgetting about Sarah Palin altogether in the midst of this financial crisis. James Rainey at the Los Angeles Times thinks the McCain campaign should be glad attention is focused elsewhere:
A global financial crisis and a not-quite-suspended presidential campaign dominated newspaper front pages and television reports over the last couple of days. Bad news for America. But good news for Sarah Palin.
The economic crisis and John McCain's surprising response have drawn attention away from the Republican vice presidential nominee just as she has started to answer more pointed questions from the media. Her third nationally televised interview, with CBS anchor Katie Couric, found Palin rambling, marginally responsive and even more adrift than during her network debut with ABC’s Charles Gibson.
Palin's unblinking certitude gave way at other times in the interview to a striking imprecision, as when she struggled to respond to Couric's suggestion that the $700-billion bailout might be better funneled through middle-class families instead of Wall Street firms. "That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, we're ill about this position that we have been put in . . ." Palin began, before meandering off in fruitless pursuit of coherence.
Even Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal couldn't put a positive spin on Palin's week:
As for Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign continues to make mistakes. They don't seem to understand her strengths and weaknesses. The U.N. photo-ops were a staged embarrassment. Keeping the press away made her look infantilized. When she finally began to sit for television interviews, the atmosphere was heightened, every misstep magnified. With Katie Couric she seemed rattled. In the Charlie Gibson interview it was not good when she sounded chirpy discussing possible war with Russia. One should not chirp about such things. Or one wouldn't if one knew the implications. And knowing the implications is part of what we hire leaders for.
Mrs. Palin is a two-term mayor and has two years as a governor of an American state. She is well-liked and highly regarded back home. She rose for a reason. She has to show America what she showed Alaska.
And for your morning sleaze fix: Charles Krauthammer lays the blame for the economic crisis - not on the Republican's policies of deregulation or greedy corporations - but on those pesky minorities and poor people who had the gall to believe they should be able to own a home!
For decades, starting with Jimmy Carter's Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, there has been bipartisan agreement to use government power to expand homeownership to people who had been shut out for economic reasons or, sometimes, because of racial and ethnic discrimination. What could be a more worthy cause? But it led to tremendous pressure on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- which in turn pressured banks and other lenders -- to extend mortgages to people who were borrowing over their heads. That's called subprime lending. It lies at the root of our current calamity.
I can't leave you on that note, so here's something to make you smile. What was the most-watched political video of the week on YouTube? Letterman's skewering of John McCain, who will regret the day he cancelled that appearance!
CNN reports that both campaigns have their advance teams in Mississippi, but I wouldn't take that to mean that the debate will definitely go forward as planned. Although, given the reaction, I don't think there is any way that McCain can not show up... it would be the end of his campaign, in my opinion. So my prediction is that the debate goes on as planned. But, just in case he doesn't, Sam Stein is reporting that Obama will hold a 90-minute townhall as an alternative. That would be awesome.
What do you think? Will the debate happen? How will McCain crawl out of the ditch he has dug for himself with this whole bailout mess? Will Palin do another interview ever again?
UPDATE: I had to add this AP story (thanks ivote2004!) by Charles Babington, just off the wires a few minutes ago, A bad day for the GOP on politics, bailout plan:
Even for a party whose president suffers dismal approval ratings, whose legislative wing lost control of Congress and whose presidential nominee trails in the polls, it was a remarkably bad day for Republicans.