by Rachel Maddow
Sen. McCain has suspended his presidential campaign and is threatening to skip Friday‘s presidential debate to work on the Wall Street bailout bill. Is this a self-sacrificing manifestation of his “country first” program? A self-aggrandizing political move to try to take the reins of leadership on economy from Barack Obama? Both? Neither?
No matter where you come down on it, Wednesday’s dramatic action appears to be another tile in the McCain campaign mosaic of over-the-top reactions to lots and lots of different situations. When Russia was invading Georgia, McCain rushed in, “We‘re all Georgians, let‘s rumble with Russia!”
As Hurricane Gustav bored down on New Orleans, he partially canceled the Republican convention. When Barack Obama fared well at his convention, McCain‘s response was to throw the ultimate Hail Mary pass and choose Sarah Palin, an inexperienced governor, even though his entire campaign was built around criticizing his opponent‘s inexperience.
Economy in chaos? Wall Street in turmoil? McCain now says, “Let‘s fire the chairman of the SEC,” in the middle of the crisis. And now that there‘s a big proposed Wall Street bailout plan, McCain has out-Hail Maryed himself. Suspend the campaign, postpone the debate. This crisis-first pattern may be what this week moved conservative columnist George Will to question Sen. McCain‘s temperament and judgment.
While the financial crisis is undoubtedly grave, the only real change in affairs since Tuesday is the new information that his poll numbers are being driven by concerns over the economy to heretofore unseen lows.
New polls out today show John McCain trailing Obama in Iowa, New Hampshire, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. So is that the strategy here, try to use an economic crisis as an excuse to hit the reset button to take a time-out from the campaign because the campaign is going poorly?
But there’s a talking-points memo about how campaign volunteers can campaign on having suspended your campaign. It was presumably mistakenly e-mailed to reporters by a McCain spokesperson Wednesday.
For his part, Sen. Obama pushed back hard on the suggestion from John McCain that they ought to delay the debate, saying “It‘s my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess. And I think that it is going to be part of the president‘s job to deal with more than one thing at once.”
Your move, Sen. McCain.
This commentary aired on the Rachel Maddow show, as Rachel turned to Chris Matthews for his take on the news of the day. Watch the complete video.