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Suspend This
Obama to McCain: Bugger Off

The good, the bad and the ugly [listen]

It was a ploy. It didn’t work. Barack Obama did the right thing, telling John McCain, not in so many words—though the words must be said, because the sentiment fits the crassness of McCain’s sideswipe—to go fuck himself. Friday’s debate should be held. “Suspending the campaign” in the manner in which McCain went about proposing it is an insult far graver than any four-letter word characterizing Obama’s just response.

Here’s how it went down: Wednesday morning, Obama called McCain to suggest that they work on a joint statement on the financial crisis. Both pretty much agree, at this point, that a bail-out is necessary, but with strings, and without compensation for the defrauding execs who helped get us here. Obama was doing the presidential thing, but also the private thing. No need for showmanship. By 2:30 p.m. McCain was talking, and agreeing, with Obama.

That’s where the two left it: joint statement.

Privately, McCain knew his game was up. Today, three polls showed Obama with a double-digit lead over McCain on who Americans trust to deal with the financial crisis and the economy. McCain is losing it. He knows it. His Palin is losing it for him too, according to the latest ABC-Washington Post poll, which has Obama ahead by 9. McCain knew he had to do something to keep his campaign from beating Lehman Brothers and AIG to the bottom of the barrel.

 

A little after the call with Obama, the McCain campaign comes out with its gimmick about suspending the campaign, going to Washington and having a meeting with Bush and Obama to put partisanship aside and solve the crisis. Bullshit. The manner of McCain’s declaration says it all. Had he really meant to be non-partisan, he’d have done what Obama had done that morning: speak to him privately, agree to a strategy, and announce it jointly. That’s not what he did. McCain sideswiped Obama instead, one-upping him in a rankly partisan move to appear the better leader—with Bush’s national address Wednesday night lined up to bring him home.

The response by McCain’s supporters confirms it: “He’s outflanked Obama!” “Great move!” “Take back the initiative.” Yes, but wasn’t this meant to precisely the opposite of a maneuver? Isn’t putting country first putting politics last?

Upshot: It’s not just another Hail Mary pass. It’s the kind of cynicism that wants us to believe that Sarah Palin could tell the difference between Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, that McCain’s campaign manager hasn’t been receiving $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac until August, that McCain himself isn’t the “rookie” who’s losing his head, as George Will, of all people, put it Tuesday. It’s McCain favoring his hip as howitzer. It’s McCain channeling Strangelove. And this is the guy we’re meant to trust with a resolution of the financial crisis, let alone the presidency?

Obama did what he should have done. He has a plan. He had a non-partisan proposal for McCain. McCain one-upped him. Obama, unlike previous Democrats who’d have responded meekly and submissively, responded the only way he should. The Senate isn’t going to be in session Friday night at 9 p.m. The presidential candidates are. Substituting showmanship and grandstanding won’t do.

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