Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain's Gauntlet

This seems to be a day for my rhetorical chickens coming to roost. Having already observed that the FBI is following through on my suggestion that the current economic crisis should be examined in terms of fraudulent behavior, I just read an Associated Press account of another suggestion coming up for grabs. This time what is at stake is a conclusion I came to on Monday:

At the same time those of us supporting Barack Obama should inform him of the importance that he let the electorate know that he has given serious consideration to the proposals of both Paulson and Sanders and that he believes that the significance of the crisis at hand demands serious debate of the merits of both proposals. Furthermore, Senator Obama should substantiate his position by participating in that debate in the Senate. If his opponent decides to keep campaigning while he is seeing to the people's business, that could easily trigger a response in Obama's favor.

It is unclear who first picked up on this suggestion; but, at least as far as the Associated Press is concerned, it seems to be John McCain who is getting all the credit. Here is how Beth Fouhy (Is that pronounced the way I think it is?) wrote the story:

Republican John McCain said Wednesday he wants to delay Friday's debate with Democratic rival Barack Obama and temporarily put aside their partisan campaign to resolve the nation's financial crisis.

McCain's announcement came after the two candidates held private talks about joining forces to address the Wall Street meltdown. The Obama campaign said the Democrat initiated the talks, but McCain beat Obama to the punch with the first public statement calling for the two to rise above politics in a time of crisis.

McCain said the Bush administration's plan seemed headed for defeat and a bipartisan solution was urgently needed.

McCain said he would put politics aside and return to Washington Thursday to focus on the nation's financial problems after addressing former President Clinton's Global Initiative session in New York. McCain said he had spoken to President Bush and asked him to convene a leadership meeting in Washington that would include him and Obama.

"It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the administration's proposal," McCain said. "I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time."

McCain said he has spoken to Obama about his plans and asked the Democratic presidential nominee to join him.

Obama's campaign did not immediate say whether he supported a delay of the debate or would also stop campaigning.

The Obama campaign said in a statement that Obama had called McCain around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to propose that they issue a joint statement in support of a package to help fix the economy as soon as possible. McCain called back six hours later and agreed to the idea of the statement, the Obama campaign said. McCain's statement was issued to the media a few minutes later.

The good news is that both candidates have publicly acknowledge personal commitment to resolving the current economic crisis. The bad news is that we do not know how that commitment will be demonstrated. I continue to hold to my original position: The Treasury Department has submitted a concrete proposal to the Congress for approval. Congress is currently deliberating over that proposal. (As I write this, the House Financial Services Committee should be in session.) Presumably, deliberation will involve more than Committee review; it will probably also require debate on the floor of both the Senate and the House. McCain has "scooped" Obama by announcing his intention to leave the campaign trail and return to Washington. As of the writing of Fouhy's report, Obama has not made any such commitment.

This may be bad news for Obama supporters. Right now the Senate floor may be the ne plus ultra of bully pulpits from which both McCain and Obama can not only state their positions on economic recovery but also have those statements captured in the Congressional Record. If the economy turns out to be the deciding factor in November, both hands of cards will be on the table for observation by every voter and interpretation by every analyst. This could very well be the defining moment when many (most?) voters decide they have seen each candidate for what he really is. I shudder to think what would happen if Obama withdrew from that moment. I have already been on his case for neglecting his "day job;" I am not sure how I would react to his neglecting one particular aspect of that "day job" that is likely to be of importance to every tax-paying American.

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