In yet another no holds barred column, Frank Rich at The New York Times fills in the blanks as to what was going on inside the McCain campaign that lead to McCain's outrageous announcement on Wednesday that he was "suspending" his campaign. Then, Jonathan Weisman of The Washington Post offers a bonus with a blow-by-blow of what actually happened in Washington when McCain finally arrived on Thursday. All the while, David Letterman entertains his audience with comments about how McCain dissed him on Wednesday night.
Frank Rich begins John McCain's tale of woe for us:
Then came Black Wednesday — not for the stock market, which was holding steady in anticipation of Washington action, but for McCain. As the widely accepted narrative has it, his come-to-Jesus moment arrived that morning, when he awoke to discover ...
... that Barack Obama had surged ahead by nine percentage points in the Washington Post/ABC News poll. The McCain campaign hastily suited up its own pollster to belittle that finding — only to be drowned out by a fusillade of new polls from Fox News, Marist and CNN/Time, each with numbers closer to Post/ABC than not. Obama was rising most everywhere except the moose strongholds of Alaska and Montana.
There has been a lot of speculation since the announcement as to why McCain pulled this stunt. And, a political stunt it was. Some surmised that it was to get out in front of Barack Obama, who had attempted to call McCain that morning:
Wednesday's campaign drama began at 8:30 a.m., when Sen. Obama called Sen. McCain to suggest the two men issue a joint statement laying out the principles they would like reflected in the $700 billion rescue package. Sen. McCain called back at about 2:30 p.m. and agreed -- but quickly upped the ante, calling for Sen. Obama also to follow him back to Washington, suspend campaigning and postpone the debate. Sen. Obama said he would consider the offer.
Moments later, Sen. McCain went before TV cameras in New York. He was there to meet with visiting heads of state gathered for the United Nations General Assembly and had planned to spend some of the afternoon preparing for Friday's debate. Instead, Sen. McCain disrupted that plan to issue a carefully prepared statement calling for the White House to convene a meeting of congressional leaders including himself and Sen. Obama, aimed at finding a solution before markets open on Monday.
But, that wasn't it. We learn from Frank Rich's column that there were several things going on that fateful Wednesday. First, McCain woke up to discover that several polls were showing Obama expanding his lead. Second, there was that Sarah Palin interview with Katie Couric that they knew was already in the can at CBS. However, even that wasn't the worst threat facing the McCain campaign that Wednesday morning. New revelations about the associations of Rick Davis, lobbyist and McCain campaign manager, with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were coming to light. As Frank Rich explains:
The McCain campaign tried to pre-emptively deflect such revelations by reviving the old Rove trick of accusing your opponent of your own biggest failings. It ran attack ads about Obama’s own links to the mortgage giants. But neither of the former Freddie-Fannie executives vilified in those ads, Franklin Raines and James Johnson, had worked at those companies lately or are currently associated with the Obama campaign. (Raines never worked for the campaign at all.) By contrast, Davis is the tip of the Freddie-Fannie-McCain iceberg. McCain’s senior adviser, his campaign’s vice chairman, his Congressional liaison and the reported head of his White House transition team all either made fortunes from recent Freddie-Fannie lobbying or were players in firms that did.
By Wednesday, the McCain campaign’s latest tactic for countering this news — attacking the press, especially The Times — was paying diminishing returns. Davis abruptly canceled his scheduled appearance that day at a weekly reporters’ lunch sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, escaping any further questions by pleading that he had to hit the campaign trail. (He turned up at the "21" Club in New York that night, wining and dining McCain fund-raisers.)
It’s then that Angry Old Ironsides McCain suddenly emerged to bark that our financial distress was "the greatest crisis we’ve faced, clearly, since World War II" — even greater than the Russia-Georgia conflict, which in August he had called the "first probably serious crisis internationally since the end of the cold war." Campaigns, debates and no doubt Bristol Palin’s nuptials had to be suspended immediately so he could ride to the rescue, with Joe Lieberman as his Robin.
As it is every week, Frank Rich's column is a must-read from start to finish for insight into all things McCain. I was thrilled to see that Rich pointed out that the only engagement McCain canceled was his appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman.
While it may be debatable whether or not missing that Letterman appearance was worse than the damage McCain did to the sensitive negotiations going in Washington, it is certain that the no-show at Letterman inflicted damage to McCain's campaign.
Before the show was even aired on the CBS Network, the Internet was abuzz Wednesday with news of Letterman's reaction to the short notice cancellation by McCain. A You Tube video, which has since received over 2.2 million views and is the most viewed video at You Tube this week, was also online before the show aired:
Black Wednesday was bad enough for McCain, but he didn't fair much better on Thursday. Jonathan Weisman at The Washington Post gives us a blow-by-blow of the events that unfolded when McCain actually did arrive in Washington. We join him as he talks about the meeting at the White House after the cameras left the room:
Boehner was blunt. The plan Paulson laid out would not win the support of the vast majority of House Republicans. It had been improved on the edges, with an oversight board and caps on the compensation of participating executives. But it had to be changed at the core. He did not mention the insurance alternative, but Democrats did. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, pressed Boehner hard, asking him if he really intended to scrap the deal and start again.
No, Boehner replied, he just wanted his members to have a voice. Obama then jumped in to turn the question on his rival: "What do you think of the [insurance] plan, John?" he asked repeatedly. McCain did not answer.
One Republican in the room said it was clear that the Democrats came into the meeting with a "game plan" aimed at forcing McCain to choose between the administration and House Republicans. "They had taken McCain's request for a meeting and trumped it," said this source.
Congressional aides from both parties were standing in the lobby of the West Wing, unaware of the discord inside the Cabinet room, when McCain emerged alone, shook the hands of the Marines at the door and left. The aides were baffled. The plan had been for a bipartisan appearance before the media, featuring McCain, Obama and at least a firm statement in favor of intervention. Now, one of the leading men was gone.
The rest of the actors poured out of the room still highly agitated. Democrats clustered in the hall between the lobby and the Oval Office, pressing Bachus to explain what had happened to the deal. The Democrats discussed whether to go before the cameras waiting in front of the White House, but Obama refused. Without McCain next to him, he said, he would be skewered for using the White House as a backdrop. As the talk grew louder, Obama asked if they could duck into a room, and back they went to the ornate, windowless Roosevelt Room.
And while McCain had finally arrived in Washington, a day after calling Dave Letterman to cancel, Letterman was still on fire. I was quite amused when I read this comment over at RedState:
The whole suspending campaign and debate idea was executed poorly IMHO. He got some bad PR from the Letterman cancellation (though Letterman's audience is not really a McCain crowd), and he really was a wallflower yesterday during negotiations. Now he heads for the debate and people are just saying "Wait, what?".
Letterman may not appeal to the "McCain crowd," but he appeals to a lot of middle of the road Americans. I would go so far as to conjecture that low-information voters who take no interest in politics or current affairs, and don't even watch the evening news, do watch Letterman. And those are precisely the people that McCain needs to appeal to. McCain didn't do himself any favors by out-and-out lying to David Letterman claiming that he was immediately getting on a plane to Washington, and then having Letterman catch him on camera sitting in another CBS studio with Katie Couric. And McCain's Letterman problem didn't end on Wednesday night:
The Los Angeles Times:
Letterman said he understood when McCain canceled his scheduled appearance on "Late Show" last night, even when he discovered that the senator wasn’t racing to Washington, as he said, but was a few blocks away doing an interview with Katie Couric.
But then he found out that McCain didn’t leave for D.C. until this morning.
"I feel used," Letterman said. "I feel cheap. I feel sullied."
"I was thinking about this – John, John, here’s how it works: You don’t come to see me ... you don’t come to see me?" he went on. "Well, we might not see you on Inauguration Day. That’s how it works. You see?"
New York Pop Culture Examiner - Examiner.com
Then Letterman found out that McCain didn't even leave New York until Thursday, and now he's gone from 'slightly perturbed' to 'full-blown irate.' He railed against McCain during Thursday's show, asking guest Paris Hilton, "You had a little run-in with him too, didn't you?"
Paris replied, "I heard he dissed you. He dissed me."
Let's see how far Dave is willing to take this. Judging from his remarks last night, this could go on for a while.
"Here's how it works," Letterman said. "You don't come to see me? You don't come to see me? Well, we might not see you on Inauguration Day."
San Jose Mercury News
It's just not a good idea to blow off a guy who has a popular talk show. John McCain is finding that out. For the second consecutive night, David Letterman ripped the GOP presidential nominee up one side and down the other for backing out of an appearance on Dave's show.
He commiserated with guest Paris Hilton on Thursday, saying he felt like an "ugly date" because McCain canceled an appearance to deal with the economic crisis, but then sat down for an interview with Katie Couric. He didn't leave New York until Thursday, further angering Letterman.
At first, Letterman said, he felt like a "patriot" to let McCain off.
"Now I'm feeling like an ugly date," Letterman said. "I feel used. I feel cheap. I feel sullied."
And finally, this from Entertainment Weekly:
Meanwhile, the fallout continued. Reaction was apparently mixed at CBS; Letterman employee Craig Ferguson backed his boss in this Late Late Show monologue, while CBS News staffers were reportedly livid that Letterman had embarrassed McCain (and, by proxy, Couric) by hijacking their feed. More than one pundit has suggested (here and here, for instance) that Dave's continued lampooning of McCain could have a real-world political effect; not that Dave's rants will persuade voters to pull the lever for Obama, but they could make voters see McCain in a less flattering light. A more cynical view suggests that Letterman will keep milking this feud for as long as he can, as he did his one-sided feud with Oprah, culminating in an eventual conciliatory visit from the senator which Letterman and CBS will hype for ratings, after which all will be forgiven, and Dave will go back to making jokes about George W. Bush's stupidity and Bill Clinton's libido (still comedy gold, even all these years later).
If that commenter at RedState isn't too worried about the negative PR that McCain is receiving for canceling on Dave Letterman, he might want to peruse some of the comments at that Entertainment Weekly column. Sure, there were McCainiacks who wrote comments defending McCain and blasting Letterman, but there were far more comments agreeing with Letterman and pointing out that McCain lied when he didn't have to:
shawn Sat, Sep 27, 2008 at 08:32 PM EST
If McCain had told the truth about why he wanted to skip the show, then Dave wouldn't have a leg to stand on. As it is, the Straight Talk Express took a detour and got busted. All's fair in love and war veterans...
Linda Bux Sat, Sep 27, 2008 at 07:42 PM EST
Come on people, all McCain had to do was tell the truth. He blew it and Letterman has every right to be upset. It just shows that McCain has no respect for anybody. Another would be president who does whatever he wants, just like Bush. He chose Palin and he probably laughs at all of his followers.
Joe D Sat, Sep 27, 2008 at 06:04 PM EST
I'm not typically a huge fan of Dave's work. Yet, when he shouted, "Hey Senator, do you need a ride to the airport?" I laughed as hard as I have in years. Having someone ditch you and/or lie to your face is always a sad experience, and so to see Dave milking this one for all it's worth is downright hilarious. McCain -- in this case -- deserves every last bit of humiliation and mocking that can be thrown his way. Cheers to Dave!
Cheesehead Sat, Sep 27, 2008 at 04:29 PM EST
McCain should not underestimate Dave. His audience is a highly educated, well-informed demographic who have accurate BS detectors and are sick and tired of McCain portraying himself as a "maverick". The Straight Talk Express is now officially off the rails.
Anna Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 11:34 PM EST
While Dave commentated on McCain's absence, he said some wonderful things about him. He described him as something to the effect of, "the only true American hero in my life." It was actually touching. The rest of his comments were filling the gap of McCain's absence and making fun of the personal offense of being "dissed" by the Republican presidential nominee. It was touching and it was funny.
HER Fri, Sep 26, 2008 at 05:49 PM EST
I'm appalled that McCain or the McCain camp would allow a lie like this to occur. Integrity and honesty is of paramount importance to me, and as a decades-long Republican who just hasn't been able to get behind my party's candidate, this is a HUGE black mark for McCain. It's not about not going on Letterman, it's that he lied about it, and that speaks volumes to me about his integrity and trustworthiness. I don't blame Dave for his ranting - McCain deserves every embarrassment it may cause. He made his own bed, now he can LIE in it.
From readers of political blogs to those who read news from the entertainment industry, Americans get it. McCain, whether or not you believe he once was an honorable man, has proven himself to be a liar and dishonest politician who will sacrifice all of his integrity in his lust to ascend to the presidency of this country.
As Frank Rich concludes in this weeks column, "He may be the first presidential candidate in our history to risk wrecking the country even before being voted into the Oval Office." Now that McCain has exposed himself to be a liar in the worst possible way (to a comedian, no less) by lying when a lie wasn't needed, let's keep working to make sure that it is Barack Obama who is voted into the Oval Office!