On Wednesday morning Barack Obama called John McCain to talk about the possibility of them making a joint statement about the nation’s current economic crisis. I don’t know what happened with that but the news of the day had little to do with this because the press was too busy covering McCain’s big announcement. He said he would suspend his campaign (events and ads) and was pushing to postpone the first debate, this Friday night, so the two Senators could return to Washington and get to work. If anyone thinks this is anything more than it is – a shameful political tactic – just isn’t paying attention.
As obvious as this move it, it also borders on being brilliant. John McCain’s post convention bounce is gone. The luster may finally be falling off Sarah Palin. Moreover, when McCain holds events without Palin, not as many people show up. This never looks good for candidates. Barack Obama raised 66 million dollars last month. Most media accounts see last week as being one of the first good ones for the Obama campaign in weeks, if not months. Something had to be done and it had to be big. By talking about suspending the campaign to come back to WDC and help fix the crisis, McCain almost looks like he is returning to his more admirable roots. It looks like he is putting the country before his own political ambitions. That is the McCain plan, which may work the sad part is it is all just crap. It is in McCain’s personal best interests to take a break from the campaign.
Neither candidate is on any of the committees who are dealing with the proposed bailout and there is little reason to believe their presence at meetings they have never attended before would add anything positive. Senator Harry Reid said we need leadership on this issue ‘not a campaign photo-op.’ While photo-ops have their place in both our government and politics, this is not the time or place for such things. During the Clinton administration, both President Clinton and Vice President Gore toured an area devastated by a flood. Clinton visited with people impacted by the crisis and ‘felt their pain.’ Gore met with FEMA officials to make sure aid got to the people who needed it. One could argue that Gore helped more but it was Clinton who got the credit. I bring this up because I do not think these are always useless.
On the flip side, Obama and McCain will meet with Dubya at the White House to work out a compromise on the administration’s proposal for a bailout because the next president will have to deal with this on day one. That is a fine idea and what they should be doing. This, however, does not mean they should not continue the campaign or debate each other. If anything, this crisis makes their meeting and answering questions on how they would govern more important. Regardless of whether or not a bill is passed by Friday (it won’t happen until Monday) we need to see these two men face each other and the country and answer real questions about policy. And as Obama said, presidential candidates (and presidents) should be able to do more than one thing at a time. Maybe we’ve forgotten that with Dubya occupying the White House for the past eight years but if Obama shows up tomorrow and McCain does not, he will prove again that not only does he not care more about his political future than the country’s but he is not the man we want to run our country.