Debate fate

John McCain announced this afternoon he’s suspending his campaign to head back to Washington to focus on the economic crisis. This, of course,comes in the wake McCain dropping the early part of the Republican National Convention in order to focus attention on Hurricane Gustav, which was nowhere near as devastating as Hurricane Ike, through which, for the record, the McCain campaign went on without missing a beat.

Is this trend of canceling things to “focus” actual work? Or a political ploy. What’s your opinion?


I’ll be updating the story here as we go:

3:11 p.m. Statement of the University of Mississippi


The University of Mississippi is going forward with the preparation for the debate. We are ready to host the debate, and we expect the debate to occur as planned. At present, the University has received no notification of any change in the timing or venue of the debate. We have been notified by the Commission on Presidential Debates that we are proceeding as scheduled. We will keep you posted as information becomes available.

3:37 p.m. Here’s the full statement on the McCain Web site, including this:


Following September 11th, our national leaders came together at a time of crisis. We must show that kind of patriotism now. Americans across our country lament the fact that partisan divisions in Washington have prevented us from addressing our national challenges. Now is our chance to come together to prove that Washington is once again capable of leading this country.

3:46 p.m. Reactions:

The longest Hail Mary pass in the history of football…or Marys.”

- Rep. Barney Frank

Brilliant positioning. Senator McCain now looks presidential by putting politics aside during this major financial crisis. Suspending the campaign really plays to his “Country First” theme and allows him to project big picture thinking.

- Ron Bonjean, Republican strategist (via Politico)

McCain’s gambit puts Obama in a tough place. Agree with McCain’s call to suspend the campaign and Obama looks like a follower, not a leader. Reject the move and Obama runs the risk of losing the high ground on post-partisanship and the need to change the way Washington does business.

- Chris Cillizza, Washington Post blogger

4:40 p.m. – Is there a consensus in America on the bailout. Judging by the two polls on News Cut this week, people — by wide margins don’t want a bailout for the financial industry and don’t want a bailout for homeowners. There is a wide split in most polls on the bailout issue. When people are not only saying “no,” but “hell, no,” how do you reach consensus with people who are saying “yes”?

  • Alison

    Can we dispense with the political theater already?

  • Joel

    Not to sound too skeptical, but I suspect this is more of a political stunt than anything else. For a man who has repeated admitted his ignorance of economic issues, how much help does he expect to be able to provide these last two days before the supposed vote on this bailout bill? And have no doubt, he will use this “country first” posturing to boost his economic creds to the fullest extent.

  • GregS

    I think it is great that BOTH camps are retreating from an unproductive campaigns to focus on national problems.

    It is also great to have two good choices for president.

  • bsimon

    As Senator McCain rushes back to Washington to help solve this problem, I am left wondering what he’s bringing to the table.

  • Dan

    We are in the process of electing a person who will be shaping America for the next four years. I think it’s the responsibility of both candidates to participate in the debate so us Americans can make a rational and educated choice in November. Debates aren’t the only way to understand the positions of the candidates, however they are more useful and informative than the 30-second attack ads. Do we really want to elect the next president without hearing from them in a public forum?

  • MR
  • daveg

    There are only 100 senators. Fully 3% have been off lobbying for their next job at our expense for, in some cases, all but two years of their term. It’s about time they got back to work. Sure, question the timing and motivation. I guarantee you that each response is committee-designed and laser focussed on votes won/loss with any course of action. There is no one reason for either decision – it’s all an attempt at walking a tight rope, moving slightly left or right as needed in the moment.

    With a lot folks, both Obama and McCain are in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ environment. At least we’ll get some work out of them if they can be shamed back into doing the jobs we’re paying them for.

    Not that any of them are worth what we’re paying them, mind you. None of those three are going to be able to make a rational decision anyway. One side or the other will vilify them no matter what they say or how they vote. Frankly, I’m surprised that McCain has the fortitude to get involved at all, and possibly even commit to a vote. That takes guts. Well, relative to the other guy, anyway,

    Because staying as far away as possible to avoid taking a stance with the non-vote vote of ‘Present?’ Well, I’ sorry, but not so much.

  • Jennifer B

    My only concern is that when one is president, it won’t likely be an option to put things on hold in the event of a crisis.

    I respect the argument to delay the debates, but at the same time I feel it’s important for the public to learn more about who will ultimately have to help lead them out of this crisis.

    There’s only a little more than a month before the election and that will not be delayed.

  • Heather

    Sorry, what? Postpone the first debate? You’ve GOT to be KIDDING me.

    Cue “Desperado”….

  • Bob Collins

    It’ll be interesting to see how many congressional hearings and/or negotiations are taking place at 8 p.m. on a Friday night in Washington.

  • Bonnie

    I believe McCain campaign is hoping to suspend the upward trend in Obama polling.

  • sm

    You can see Rove all over this. How tiresome. The one-upsmanship posturing is ridiculous. What’s McCain running away from? Or has McCain been thoroughly rehearsed on appropriate scripted phrases and they want to show him off before he forgets it all?

  • jtb

    I believe that both Obama and McCain are not on the commitees to look at this legislation intially. This legislation came out at the beginning of the week, and this is a hugh mess we are in. If the bill will go through the Senate committee and put to a vote on the floor by Friday, there is something majorly wrong with our govenment process…very scary.

    It is a sad state of our country to think there is a silver bullet of the solution of throwing my money at the problem without intially any oversight and payback. Step back, take a breathe, and then find the solution.

    Debates are used to sort out issues, whether at a national media level or the Senate chambers. Step up the the plate, lets see what Obama and McCain has got for a solution…

  • jtb

    One more point, with all-do respect to McCain, this is not 9/11. This is not an eminent attack on our country; we brought this “crisis” upon ourselves.

  • Susan WB

    If, as seems likely, McCain and Obama were to vote differently on this bill anyway, what difference would it make if they both rushed back to D.C. to cast votes that cancelled each other out?

    The debate needs to go forward. It’s been too long coming as it is. There are plenty of other Senators in Washington focused on this deal. McCain and Obama need to get in front of the nation, on the same stage, and propose long-term solutions for this and other matters of national importance. They should not go rushing off willy-nilly to “deal” with short-term fixes for an immediate crisis that others are already working on.

  • Bob Collins

    I don’t think McCain is rushing back for a vote. I think he’s rushing back to broker a deal. I don’t know what the protocol is in the Senate but I would think that’s Sen. Richard Shelby’s role as the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.

  • Alison

    The future President McCain on the phone with President Medvedev:

    Hi Mr. Medvedev. Say, we just got word that you’re invading another neighboring country. This really is a situation that I should be dealing with but we just got a lot of rain in Iowa again…Yeah, that’s right, like 12 or 14 inches…Yeah, you know what it’s like, lots of towns flooded, barge and rail traffic not moving. I really need to deal with this…Thanks for holding off on the invasion. I’ll have Sarah give your a call when we get things cleaned up here. She’s been wanting to talk to you about this sort of thing…

  • Al

    My favorite part of this farce is that McCain will stopping running his ads while he using his valuable time to sort out the financial mess. I certainly could do without the ads, but are we actually supposed to believe that he was the one negotiating with TV and radio stations for air time and he’ll be too busy to do that?

  • itisus

    As Obama responded, the next President should be capable of handling two things at once. Quite right. If bom-bom or pom-pom can’t take the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen. (Thanks to Harry Truman)

  • Elizabeth T.

    as jtb pointed out, this isn’t Sept. 11. The last monumental bill the Senate threw together without reading was the USA_PATRIOT Act, which has had a devastating effect on how our country is run. Or maybe it was the “oh, let’s go to war without seeing the justification for it” vote.

    Every time the Legislature rushes into something, We the People get the dirty end of the stick. A 5 day discussion about almost 1 Trillion dollars is mighty, might damn fast.

    Now, if they can only segue this into an “oh my, let’s fix health care” crisis. Maybe that can be fixed in 5 days, too?

  • Jim!!!

    Game over. McCain is playing duck and run.

  • daveg

    It was nice of Prez Bush to provide political cover for both Obama and McCain.

    Love him or hate him (and yes, I do know which feeling is prevalent in this forum), he has always acted like a gentleman. Almost presidential, in fact.

  • bsimon

    I have seen elsewhere some speculation that the McCain campaign is gambling that they can get the VP debate cancelled; i.e. move the debate for tomorrow to the VP slot next week & reschedule the VP meet for ‘another date’.

    I’m thinking, if McCain can’t make it on Friday, just swap dates – and see if the VP candidates can step in on a moment’s notice, with minimal preparation. That would be a good test, wouldn’t it?

  • Mike

    It makes no sense to me as a campaign tactic.

    So… McCain is “too busy” to come to the debate. All Obama has to do is show up there and say something like: “Look, I’m ready to go. Why is McCain afraid to come here and talk to the voters about the issues? What’s he hiding? Does he think he’s so important that he can’t be bothered to actually come here and make his positions known.” It would be giving Obama ammunition to paint him as evasive, out of touch, unreliable, erratic, unable to deal with more than one issue at time, etc.

  • Cheryl

    Why can’t they just have the debate from Washington? I know the original location folks would be disappointed, but stuff happens. And in this technological age, don’t say it’s not possible logistically. Aren’t we trying to conserve energy anyway? If they are needed in Washington to help broker this deal (questionable, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt), so be it. But have the debate, and have it in DC so there isn’t all this running around the country in their separate jets!

  • kscheibe

    If demonstrating bipartisanship is an objective for McCain, his recent actions to return to Washington and cancel the debate suggests otherwise. Effective leadership skills during times of crises would require that McCain demonstrate effective communication and negotiation skills in order to arrive at a mutually agreed upon decision. An effective bipartisan process would not have resulted in making an announcement prior to mutual agreement. As it stands now, his urgency to announce looks like one-upmanship…or, “better do it before someone steals my thunder.”