(Updated) McCain: I Be Presidential, So Grab A Bucket & Help Me Bail, Barack My Man
As noted here, last week was the game changer in the 2008 presidential campaign and that finally seems to have sunk in this afternoon as John McCain announced that he was suspending campaigning to help fix the economy, urged Barack Obama to do the same and, oh, wants to hold off on that first debate.
The McCain-Sarah Palin campaign is imploding. After campaign spokesmouths criticized one national poll earlier in the day showing Obama and Joe Biden pulling away as an outlier, Fox News‘ own latest poll confirmed the fact that the race has again become the Democrats to lose.
The feeling grows that John McCain is not fully in control of himself. That his party animal past and legendary inflexibility may be catching up to him. That he doesn’t have the mental agility to stay sharp, let alone face down Obama, and that he is unsteady without Palin at his side.
Meanwhile, the post-convention bounce and Palin boomlet have ended with a thud and the Alaska governor’s negatives have intersected with with her positives. Snippets from Palin’s third interview, this one with CBS News‘s Katie Couric, are making the rounds and already are provoking derision, while McCain himself has not had a press availability since mid-August.
So what’s a campaign that is all smoke (and mirrors) and no fire to do?
Throw a Hail Mary pass as it did with the unvetted Palin.
McCain’s contention that he suddenly is needed in Washington when he was putting out word that he might be absent for the bailout plan vote is ridiculous on its face. Nothing has changed on the economic front but much out on the stump. Still, there are no flies on Obama if he accepts McCain’s challenge.
Ezra Klein brilliantly summed up the roller coaster ride:
“Both candidates made an effort to transcend the campaign today. At 8am this morning, Barack Obama called John McCain and asked that the two collaborate on a statement on the bailout. The call was not announced to the press. At 2:30pm, McCain called back and accepted. The initiative made sense: Without some unity from the two campaigns, some linkage of their fortunes, the two parties would be too paralyzed attempting to ratf*ck each other to actually pass a bailout proposal. The statement, meant to remove the interests of the two presidential candidates, is forthcoming.
“Later in the day, John McCain surprised the Obama campaign by going before the press and announcing a cessation of the campaign and a delay in the debate. There was no effort to plan a coordinated action with the other camp. Rather, he publicly demanded that Barack Obama follow suit. McCain promised that he would return to Washington to work on the bill. The drama of the negotiations will now be combined with the drama of the presidential campaign. The leadership structure of the Senate Republicans is suddenly unclear. No one quite knows what effect the presence of two presidential candidates — and their attendant political incentives, media strategies, and advisers — will have on the process.
“The contrast here is a clear one. Obama argued that the presidential candidates should recede into the background, agree on a common position and let Congress work without the impediment. It was a bipartisan stunt meant to construct a protected space for the congressional negotiations, where they could proceed without relative freedom from the presidential contest.
“McCain loudly proclaimed the need to set aside politics, focused cameras by demanding a suspension of the debates, and promised that both candidates would fully insert themselves and their entourages and their media power and their electoral interests into the negotiations. The McCain campaign has politicized the bailout debate even as it volubly denounces politics. It is astonishingly reckless. In that, it is par for the course. Whenever the polls turn, they seek comfort in chaos. They speak of the experience and seasoning needed for governance but pick Sarah Palin. They call for an end to politics amidst crucial congressional negotiations then fling the crush of the presidential campaign atop an already-delicate process. In their attempts to define themselves as above politics, they will politicize anything.”
And like that first Hail Mary, this one also will go out of bounds as McMaverick and his Gal Pal go down in flames.