Did McCain Kill Bailout?
Numerous reports on what happened in the cranky, late night session that ended with the Paulson bailout plan seemingly dead indicate that John McCain — who you may recall has suspended his campaign to work on the economy — may have pulled the trigger.
Memeorandum links an ABC News report that was originally headlined “Deal May Be Dead: Democrats Blaming McCain” but has since been retitled “Bailout Talks Go On Amid Presidential Scuffle.”
The talks broke down late Thursday night as rebellious House Republicans “took a walk,” in the words of House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.
With the deal in limbo, it was also not clear whether Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama would hold their first presidential debate on schedule tonight. The debate to be held in Oxford, Miss., but McCain has said he won’t attend if an agreement is not reached on how to deal with the country’s mortgage and credit crisis.
Before the Capitol Hill meeting began, House Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., continued to cast blame on Republicans, and specifically McCain, the Republican presidential nominee.
Reid said McCain was “not helpful” by suspending his campaign and heading to Washington, claiming it was difficult to “understand what John McCain said at the [White House] meeting.” He said McCain spoke last and only for several moments, and did not contribute anything. “McCain only hurt this process,” Reid said. Asked if McCain expressed interest in taking part in negotiations on Capitol Hill, Reid said, “No.”
Soon after Reid’s comments, which followed another blast at McCain by Frank, the McCain campaign suggested Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, was at fault. “At today’s cabinet meeting, John McCain did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan,” said a statement from the McCain campaign. “John McCain simply urged that for any proposal to enjoy the confidence of the American people, stressing that all sides would have to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers. “However, the Democrats allowed Sen. Obama to run their side of the meeting,” the statement added. “That did not work as the meeting quickly devolved into a contentious shouting match that did not seek to craft a bipartisan solution.”
It seems that McCain’s sin was in noncommittally mentioning that the House Republicans have an alternative plan that calls for much less dramatic government action. TPM’s David Kurtz observes that, “It is no small irony that after years of being at odds with the right wing of his own party, John McCain is staking his campaign for the presidency on it.” Kurtz cites without linking a report from The Hill and another from Fox News television that McCain is quietly backing the renegade effort.
“We would prefer a loan or supplying insurance,” Bachus told reporters. “These are the ideas Sen. McCain tried to maximize. He feels strongly we have to design a program where taxpayers won’t lose.”
The conservative Republicans have been very, very focused on taxpayer protections, and one thing that Sen. McCain has been clear on from the beginning is that that’s absolutely essential. …
Kurtz is shocked: “Strangely, almost inexplicably — or maybe just desperately — McCain has thrown his lot in with the same conservatives who see him as the perfect example of what is wrong with their party.” But, while McCain has alienated Movement Conservatives in a variety of ways over the years, he’s largely been a fiscal conservative. While one should never discount political calculation, especially this late in a tight presidential race, it may simply be that McCain is trying to lead this thing to a better outcome.
Frankly, whoever kills off the Paulson plan will deserve a great deal of credit. Stephen Bainbridge and others have persuaded me that this is genuinely a crisis and one that calls for dramatic government action. But a hastily arranged, no oversight takeover of a large sector of the economy by unelected bureaucrats isn’t the solution.