Like Ross Douthat, I’m wholly unqualified to comment intelligently on this subject so I humbly offer a few links to those of you who are. Here’s the report of Newt’s presser this morning stressing that the sky is not, in fact, falling and that Paulson’s plan will be seen as such a loser in six weeks that McCain should come out hard against it now and pin it to Obama. There’s some logic in that — the public is notably cool to it — but needless to say, if the plan doesn’t pass and the market crashes, that’ll put Maverick (among others) in a bit of a spot. Any reason to believe that a crash is really possible? Yes indeed if you believe Paulson and Bernanke, who spent last week putting the fear of God into congressional Democrats and this morning doing the same to House Republicans. Newt offered his own plan over the weekend at the Corner, but I’d recommend reading these two posts by Megan McArdle before jumping boots first into the ideologically pure “let ’em fail” position. In a strange way, this reminds me of the Iraq debate in reverse: We’re faced with what may or may not be a looming threat of mass destruction, except this time conservatives are willing to chance it rather than take costly, aggressive preemptive action. Maybe they’re right; as I say, my ignorance on this leaves me unable to judge. But here’s your exit quotation from McArdle, emphasizing that we’re looking at a nuclear scenario if they’re wrong: “There is no benefit from a ‘tough love’ strategy for anyone that even begins to approach the catastrophic consequences, for everyone, of a massive and rapid contraction.”

Update: Democrats worry that McCain will take Newt’s advice:

Senior Democrats on the Hill are worried that Sen. McCain will “demagogue” the bill, continue to voice opposition to it, use it to run against both Wall Street and Congress as well as to distance himself from the Bush White House. Democrats worry McCain will not only vote against the bill, he will provide cover for other Republicans to do so, leaving Democrats holding the bag for the Bush administration’s deeply unpopular proposal.

A Democratic congressional leadership source says that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson went so far as to assure Democratic leaders that McCain “won’t be a problem” — in other words that McCain will vote for the proposal.

Update: Further to the last update, Reid’s not going to let the left take the rap the Bush administration’s foray into socialism:

“This is a Republican proposal, and we need some Republican votes,” to help it pass. “At this stage we [Democrats] are working with ourselves.”

Reid is essentially calling the Republican bluff on a political gambit. There’s a growing chorus of Republicans in both chambers _ especially House conservatives _ who would love to yell about the bailout and vote against it knowing it will pass. In this strategy, Republicans will be able to hit the campaign trail and boast about how they’ve voted against the Bush administration and Democratic Congress while protecting Main Street.

But Democrats aren’t going to let that strategy fly.

House Minority Whip James Clyburn says his leaders are not going to push through a bill that only passes with Democratic votes either…

“We now need Republicans to stand up,” Reid said. “We need the Republican nominee for president to say what he’s for.”

Update: The Democrats are refining their position further to protect Obama from being outflanked: McCain has to vote with them or else the bill’s dead.

Update: Good luck squaring this with the Rasmussen poll I linked above, but Pew has no less than 57 percent of the public onboard with the Paulson plan. And guess which party’s membership is most gung ho.

If McCain and House Republicans needed an extra little prod to sign on with Paulson and Reid, there it is. Although from what Richard Shelby and Jim Bunning — and Sherrod Brown — told Paulson and Bernanke today, I wouldn’t expect passage by an overwhelming majority.