Wednesday, September 24, 2008

"McCain Ducks Debate and "Suspends" Campaign"

Ari Melber (The Nation):
After calling for debates all summer, John McCain is cutting and running from the first one.

In one of the weirder political ploys of a long campaign season, McCain says he will "suspend" his campaign on Thursday. He is also pushing for a postponement of the first presidential debate. McCain says he is taking these dramatic steps because he wants to focus on congressional negotiations over the bailout. It's not clear how a national presidential debate -- the ultimate bully pulpit in this political season -- would detract from any effort to build national consensus on solutions for the economic crisis.

The debate, scheduled for 9pm EST on Friday, would have provided the first direct, extended exchange between the nominees on foreign policy, and presumably would have included economic discussions as well, given the current crisis. Both candidates could travel to Washington the next morning -- Obama is already scheduled to do so -- so McCain's decision to bail on the debate as his polling slips is odd. Today's Washington Post/ABC poll showed Obama taking a national lead, powered by voters flocking to him on economic issues.

The Obama campaign just released a statement describing their collaboration with McCain, though it did not directly address his debate gambit:

At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal. At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama's call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details.

That's nice. Here's a better idea: Lay out those details in public, in a transparent, free-wheeling televised the debate this Friday, after officially changing the topic from foreign policy to the economy. Good leaders can change course to meet a crisis, but they don't run from public scrutiny. John McCain may hope his Beltway trip looks presidential, but you don't need to be in Washington to rally the American people to a solution to these problems.
Howie P.S.: The AP just put up this response from the Obama campaign. Ben Smith comments:
The only thing that's changed in the last 48 hours is the public polling.

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