David Weigel of Reason offers McCain some debate advice. I agree with a great deal of it, particularly with this almost-throwaway line:
If I’m right, and McCain can only win by attacking Bush and Congress, the election might have been lost when he backed the bailout. That was a real-time, 3 a.m. phone call opportunity to prove he’d be bringing bulldozers with him to the White House. He blinked.
Hey, I was more or less saying that before the bailout vote.
The further we get from the “I’m suspending my campaign, I’m going back to Washington, we have to postpone the debate” announcement, the worse it looks. I don’t think it’s unfair to say John McCain has no particular specialized knowledge on the topics related to the banking crisis and bailout. So looking back in retrospect, why did he go back to DC to get hip-deep in the negotiations? Did he really think that Senate Democrats were going to be eager to partake of a process that would make him appear heroic? Did he really think that this was a matter of him getting into a room with a bunch of Senators and saying, “hey, guys, let’s not be partisan about this,” and a deal would materialize?
With that move, McCain took his destiny out of his own hands and put it in the hands of Harry Reid, Chris Dodd, and Barney Frank. He was effectively wedded to the negotiation process, a process that got uglier as the bill progressed. He even had a chance with the bill’s endless porky “improvements” — he could have said, “I support the goals of this bill, but I cannot, in good conscience, vote for the bad joke that this supposedly vital legislation has turned into.”
But he voted yes, Obama voted yes, and there was effectively no difference between them.