CBS News reports that John McCain suspended his campaign as a response to a call from Henry Paulson to rescue the bailout plan, which would have headed for defeat without his leadership. Bob Schieffer reported this morning that McCain flew back to Washington to help reach a compromise that would allow Republicans to support a form of bailout, and that without his help, efforts to resolve the crisis would have collapsed:
I am told, Maggie, that the way McCain got involved in this in the first place, the Treasury Secretary was briefing Republicans in the House yesterday, the Republican conference, asked how many were ready to support the bailout plan. Only four of them held up their hands. Paulson then called, according to my sources, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is very close to John McCain, and told him: you’ve got to get the people in the McCain campaign, you’ve got to convince John McCain to give these Republicans some political cover. If you don’t do that, this whole bailout plan is going to fail. So that’s how, McCain, apparently, became involved.
He has gotten what he wants, he’s going to have this meeting, kind of a summit today with the president and Barack Obama. I’m told that the leaders of both parties are getting close to having some kind of a bill. The question, though, is whether rank-and-file Republicans, especially, are going to vote for this.
This makes quite a bit of sense for those of us who have followed the trek of this bill on Capitol Hill. Republicans had rebelled against the idea of a bailout, mainly on principle, not wanting to use taxpayer money to subsidize market stupidity. McCain, being the party leader now, needed to provide leadership and also to work a bill into something that would be more palatable for Republicans in Congress to support, even with reluctance.
It also puts an interesting light on his offer to Barack Obama to return with him to Washington. Having been told of Paulson’s request, McCain decided to return — but then offered to have Obama return with him in order to make it an election-neutral decision. McCain even offered to suspend the campaign. Obama refused, and McCain went back by himself. Bush then summoned Obama back to keep Democrats from backing away from a bill they have supported over the last few days. If McCain can succeed in getting changes in the bill with the points he has been making from the campaign trail, he can put his own stamp on this bill and have yet another example of his work as a crisis manager and bipartisan reformer.
This is a case of life imitating art, if one can describe campaign ads as such. Hillary Clinton’s campaign put out an ad stating that Obama wasn’t ready to answer a 3 AM call during a crisis. This call may not have literally come at 3 AM, but clearly Obama wasn’t ready to lead. McCain, on the other hand, understood the nature of the call and responded appropriately.
Update: I’ve been having troubles with WordPress in embedding this video; you can watch it at the Newsbusters in the first link, or here at Eyeblast if it still won’t embed properly.