Campaigns Holding Breath, not 'On Hold'

John McCain’s big gamble to suspend his campaign and go back to Washington may pay off in the polls and, more importantly, may pay off for the country. But having injected himself into the negotiations of the Wall Street bailout legislation, McCain can just as easily be damaged enormously if he doesn’t produce a deal.

For three days, McCain has warned everyone that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s bailout proposal was dead in the water. The Bush administration, working with House and Senate Democrats, thought they could hammer out a deal. They seem to have forgotten about the House Republicans who are, for the most part, conservative.

Working with Republicans in the Senate like Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and House Republicans like Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Mike Pence (R-Ind.), McCain now has the opportunity to bring to the fore a completely new free market solution to this financial crisis, avoiding an unpopular bailout that takes us perilously close to socialism. Conservatives may not like everything in the new solution that I believe is coming down the pike, but I am confident that because of John McCain we may get a much better bill than the Paulson Plan, and Americans will be a lot better off than we would have been as a result.

Democrats have only themselves to blame for viciously demonizing Wall Street. The bailout is hugely unpopular on Main Street as a direct result. Now the only way Democrats can railroad through their grand socialist add-ons is to vote through the unpopular bill on straight party lines without Republican support. The Democrats do not want to go home to their districts and take sole responsibility for handing Wall Street what they have framed as $700 billion in “corporate welfare” without any cover from the Republicans.

McCain has taken the opportunity to be that leader in this dire crisis — a man of courage and action who has stepped in to find the solution. Obama will be exposed as the back bencher who already defined for the world that his proper role in this time of crisis was to go to Mississippi and discuss things. Call me if you need me. Then he tried to force McCain to do the same. Not good.

But if, having parachuted late into the negotiations, McCain doesn’t produce a deal that passes both houses in the next few days, he will be blamed for the failure. The risks are comprehensive. And McCain hasn’t described what his goals are in the legislative dealings.
If McCain fails in leading here, he may have given Obama an overwhelming advantage going into November.

As of deadline, no decision from McCain on the debate tonight at Ole Miss, but McCain should stay right where he is if he can pull off a work-out for this crisis to replace the bailout. We live in interesting times.

Barack Obama’s experience in combining government and private sector housing policy in Illinois was covered in this Boston Globe article earlier this year. Judging by past performance, it is a good thing that Obama preferred to simply talk about the issue.

In other bad news for the Obama campaign, appearing on Good Morning America Thursday, Bill Clinton threw Barack Obama under the bus while defending John McCain. Amidst absurd accusations from Obama’s team that McCain was afraid to debate Obama, Clinton said, “I presume [McCain] did that in good faith since I know he wanted — I remember he asked for more debates to go all around the country and so I don’t think we ought to overly parse that.”

In another with-friends-like-this moment, Bill Clinton remarked on Larry King Live Wednesday night that he would respect the Jewish holidays then would travel down to Florida for the Obama campaign to “hustle up… the cracker vote there.” Obama has got to be wondering whose side Clinton is really on about now. Welcome to the big leagues.

Sarah Palin spent the day in New York City with an unscheduled stop at Ground Zero where she held her first impromptu press conference. Details from a Fox News report here.