First, Sen. Barack Obama called Sen. John McCain on Wednesday to talk about issuing a joint statement on the economic crisis. Then McCain went on television to announce he was suspending his campaign and flying to Washington, proposing that tonight's scheduled campaign debate be postponed unless an agreement was reached. Obama declined to postpone the debate, but both candidates flew to Washington on Thursday at President Bush's request. By late afternoon, they were at the White House in private discussions. A sampling of the reaction to McCain's maneuvering:
"McCain has certainly taken the bigger risk, but Obama's course is not risk-free. These events are yet to play out, but the public will have plenty to judge these two nominees on by the time the weekend is over. These are not two politicians who would operate out of the Oval Office in similar ways. Philosophically, stylistically and temperamentally, Americans have a real choice in November."
Dan Balz, Washington Post
"Of course his motives were partly election-related. But 'the interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.' If candidate McCain, for whatever mixed motives, ends up acting in a way that results in a deal that is viewed as better than the original proposal, and that seems to stabilize the markets and avert a meltdown — he'll benefit politically, and he deserves to. For McCain will have acted presidentially in the campaign —which some voters, quite reasonably, will think speaks to his qualifications to be president."
William Kristol, Weekly Standard
"The president helped McCain out ... by inviting both candidates to Washington ... to put their imprimatur on a deal that seemed near completion. At the risk of making McCain's gesture look less heroic, he also made it look less self-absorbed. …"
Harold Meyerson, Washington Post
"John McCain made a dramatic gesture to solve a problem that didn't exist. He pledged to take politics out of a process that has been surprisingly bipartisan. And he tried to scrub a presidential debate that had nothing to do with negotiations over a Wall Street bailout that he proposed to save."
E.J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post
"While I am willing to believe that McCain's interest in bipartisan reform is sincere, it's hard not to see at least some gamesmanship at work here. The McCain campaign has been reeling for the last few days and it's fast becoming apparent voters simply don't trust him on the economy as much as they trust Obama ... It feels to me a bit like McCain is trying to use this crisis as a way to prop up his political fortunes. Nothing unusual about that, I suppose …"
Jonathan Cohn, New Republic
"If a bailout package passes and the market rallies, McCain will be a hero. If there is no package and the market falters, Obama won't look so hot ... Be it noted that in the thick of battle, Obama's idea of leadership was to refuse to postpone the scheduled Friday night debate. Until he could not say no, Obama's idea of leadership was to stay out of Washington, instead issuing a joint statement with McCain on what they'd like to see in the package other leaders negotiate.''
Debra J. Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle