Barack Obama called John McCain's bluff and McCain flinched. With McCain's poll numbers slipping (down as much as nine points in some polls), his campaign manager embroiled in an ethics scandal, and Sarah Palin looking increasingly less qualified, the McCain campaign tried to change the subject by threatening to skip the first presidential debate.
The hope, it seems, was that Obama would agree with this stunt, and McCain would not have to debate during a very bad week for his campaign. Or was the stunt about moving the first presidential debate to the date scheduled for the first VP debate, and then cancelling what could be a very embarrassing spectacle for the Republicans? That idea was floated by top McCain backer Sen. Lindsey Graham.
McCain's debate stunt was not to get out of having Sarah Palin debate (though that would be a nice side effect), but to distract the media and the public from the scandal surrounding campaign manager, Rick Davis. Davis, a lobbyist for the banking industry, has said numerous times that he ceased his lobbying activities in 2005. However, both the New York Times and Newsweek have discovered that Davis was receiving a $15,000 per month fee from troubled mortgage giant Freddie Mac up until August 2008. That's right...last month.
Considering how Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are both an integral part of the current financial crisis that is embroiling the country, it would seem that having your campaign manager on the take from them would be a problem. Lobbying for looser regulations when it is precisely that loosening that caused the problem might look bad. So, McCain tried to make himself look like a part of the solution rather than a major part of the problem by claiming to "suspend" his campaign, and possibly not show up at the debate. The media went for it, as they usually do. And few people had the guts to call out McCain for this stunt.
Then came an agreement between the Treasury Department and the relevant committees in the House and Senate yesterday. It was billed as an agreement "in theory." The Democrats got the concessions from the administration that they wanted, and the Republicans agreed to go along. Then, John McCain came back to Washington (for the first time since April) for his mandated photo op and then the deal was gone.
McCain has decided that he better debate after all. Barack Obama, of course, never wavered. His argument was that a president needs to be able to do more than one thing at a time, and that with 40 days until the election, the American people deserve to hear from the people who will be inheriting the mess less behind by George W. Bush and the Republicans. Sounds reasonable, of course.
McCain flinched and backed down. He will be going to the debate despite there being no agreement on the financial bailout plan. Obama looked very presidential, and McCain looked like a confused child unsure which of his wild impulses to follow. Mark my words, if McCain has a bad night at the debate he will blame it on how "hard" he was working on the non-existent bailout plan. McCain: quick to blame others, loathe to accept any personal responsibility. That should be his motto.