I just got off of a conference call with McCain economic adviser Doug Holz-Eakin reacting to the failure of the bailout package, and it did nothing but reinforce my view that the decision to suspend his campaign was a major blunder that may very well have cost McCain the election.
McCain's entire argument for why he should be elected is that he has the experience to lead and record of forging bi-partisan compromises to get things done. He's supposed to be a doer, rather than just a talker. The suspension gambit was supposed to demonstrate this, when in reality, it made it look as the opposite.
Eakin said McCain suspended the campaign to bring the parties together, but when he got to Washington — shock!! — "he encountered partisanship right away."
So did McCain give a rallying speech, and use his awesome legislative skills to forge a compromise, or present an alternative plan? No, said Eakin. He "held his tongue" so as not to be too partisan, and purposely didn't present his own proposal. He wanted to bring House Republicans into the process. Over the next few days, Eakin recounts, McCain "continued to monitor the process" and made dozens of phone calls. He came "to do his best to lead a process that would get results, and it didn't happen"
Now that's inspiring!
Eakin also called for the House and Senate to regroup and return to the negotiating table. He doesn't plan on suspending his campaign again, but will " engage as much as he feels it will be productive." In other words, do exactly what the campaign mocked Obama for last week.
If you check out the Gallup tracking poll, McCain still seemed to be hanging in there after the financial crisis, rallying to a tie the day after he announced his suspension (which wouldn't have reflected much reaction to the decision). Within three days, he was back in an eight-point hole. And I can't imagine that the failure of the bill will boost him any. Of course, if instead of playing the role of McCain the bipartisan leader, he played the deficit hawk role, he could have adopted the House Republicans plan and been proclaiming today that he saved American taxpayers $700 billion.
Via Matt Welch, here’s the video of Nancy Pelosi’s “partisan” speech that Republicans blame for scuttling the bailout bill, in which she she attributes the crisis to “anything goes” economic policies. My favorite line is, “I don’t know what’s so ‘great’ about the Depression, but that’s the name they give it.”
Here’s the statement from McCain economic advisor Dough Holtz- Eakin, which I find pretty weak:
“From the minute John McCain suspended his campaign and arrived in Washington to address this crisis, he was attacked by the Democratic leadership: Senators Obama and Reid, Speaker Pelosi and others. Their partisan attacks were an effort to gain political advantage during a national economic crisis. By doing so, they put at risk the homes, livelihoods and savings of millions of American families.
“Barack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain, and refused to even say if he supported the final bill. “Just before the vote, when the outcome was still in doubt, Speaker Pelosi gave a strongly worded partisan speech and poisoned the outcome.
“This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country.”
Considering most Republicans voted against the measure and McCain’s leadership didn’t get them on board, I don’t really see how McCain can gain much ground with this approach.
The Dow is now down over 500 points on the failure of the bailout. In the immediate term, I think this hurts McCain. He made such a show of suspending his campaign so that he could go to Washington, bring the two parties together, and get things done. The fact that everything collapsed undermines that argument. Furthermore, the longer the stock market is in turmoil and Americans are uncertain about the economy, the harder it will be for McCain to win, because, fair or not, the public holds Republicans responsible for this mess.
Piggy-backing off of the 4,600 word plus NY Times investigative report (the typical anti-McCain piece with over lots of smoke but no fire), the DNC has released a new ad highlighting McCain’s ties to the casino industry. There could be many reasons for the ad — the lobbying issue, trying to rile up social conservatives, and perhaps portray him as an unreliable risk taker. Perhaps it’s just because I have my own industry ties having spent my childhood in the Atlantic City area with a father in the casino business, but I don’t really see this ad accomplishing much — and remember, casinos are the largest employer in Nevada, a swing state.
I really think Obama’s brandishing of his bracelet was the perfect symbol for this debate — once it got to foreign policy, McCain was knowledgeable and comfortable and sincere, while Obama was pretending. On issue after issue — Iran, Russia, and Iraq — McCain demonstrated expertise and conviction and historical understanding. McCain kept saying Obama was naive and didn’t understand, and Obama kept saying “he’s right” without adding anything interesting to the conversation. Also, the body language reinforced this. When Obama spoke, he looked at McCain and McCain ignored him and looked at Jim Lehrer as if Obama were too insignificant to look at, while Obama watched McCain as he was speaking as if he were listening to a lecture.