Friday, September 26, 2008

Bailout Thursday In Review

As you're likely aware by now, McCain has “lifted the [non-existent] suspension” of his campaign, and will actually show up at the debates this evening. In other not surprising news, his campaign used the debate announcement to blame the Democrats and Obama for standing in the way of progress.

The difference between Barack Obama and John McCain was apparent during the White House meeting yesterday where Barack Obama's priority was political posturing in his opening monologue defending the package as it stands. John McCain listened to all sides so he could help focus the debate on finding a bipartisan resolution that is in the interest of taxpayers and homeowners.

This message will definitely appeal to the party faithful, naturally. But for those who decide to pay attention to independent sources (or at least sources not directly in the pocket of the Right), that message contradicts a growing number of opposing narratives.

Nearly everything encapsulating yesterday’s events makes a point to mention that the deal being worked on yesterday morning was part of a bipartisan attempt to make the White House’s proposal more acceptable to both parties. The Swampland, Time Magazine’s blog, condenses the McCain/House Republicans’ actions at the White House meeting into three points:

1. The House Republicans blow up a rare, and necessary, moment of true bipartisanship to make it look like McCain, who has no expertise in this area, has come to the rescue.
2. McCain sits mute in the White House summit arranged for his benefit. He doesn't even ask Paulson what he thinks of the House Republican plan.
3. He refuses to take a stand, one way or another, on the Republican plan.

It’s fascinating really. The number of evocative and infuriating scenes coming out of yesterday’s mayhem is pretty astonishing. The New York Times’ account is filled with these moments, the most affecting of these would have to be this exchange between the Henry Paulson and Nancy Pelosi:

...according to The A.P.Thursday, in the Roosevelt Room after the session, the Treasury secretary, Henry M. Paulson Jr., literally bent down on one knee as he pleaded with Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, not to “blow it up” by withdrawing her party’s support for the package over what Ms. Pelosi derided as a Republican betrayal.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ms. Pelosi said, a wry reference to Mr. Paulson’s kneeling, according to someone who observed the exchange. She went on: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

Mr. Paulson sighed. “I know. I know.”

This same story also features a pretty damning quote from one of the Republican aides present during the meeting (emphasis mine):

The aide, Kevin Smith, said Republicans revolted, in part, because they were chafing at what they saw as an attempt by Democrats to jam through an agreement on the bailout early Thursday and deny Mr. McCain an opportunity to participate in the agreement.

One has to wonder why, if he was so keen to participate, during the time the meeting hammering out the agreement was taking place, McCain could be found talking with the House Minority Whip and campaign advisors. Was he waiting for an invite? If you’re talking about bipartisanship, why not behave in a manner that actually promotes bipartisanship?

Of course, that’s looking for reason from a man behaving erratically; and now he’s paying the price for that irrationality. For one thing, his increasingly displeased base is openly taking cracks at both him and his candidate; the latter evidenced by this OpEd piece from the starchly conservative National Review. Further, leaks are starting to spring that the VP candidate is underwhelming campaign operatives.

Also, White House staff are calling the whole 48 hour maneuver a PR failure, which, combined with Wamu’s collapse, could lead to the opposition’s backing away from any further ruckus. In fact, with White House officials and House Republicans now in open battle with each other, the party couldn’t look more disheveled if it tried.

Lastly, all of the frantic running around makes McCain look pathetic, divorced from reality and extremely desparate; making people afraid of the possibility of what a McCain/Palin administration could bring and leading people to the kind of judgment best expressed today on The New Republic’s blog, The Plank:

Whether because of age or overreaching ambition, McCain has become the kind of man he earlier railed against. He has become the Bush of 2000 against whom he campaigned or the Senate and House Republicans whom he despised. His defeat is now imperative.

With less than 40 days remaining in the race, and as more people finally start paying attention starting with tonight’s debates, it’s important that these events get openly discussed, instead of letting the Right go unchallenged in narrative spinning.

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