At 5:15 p.m Monday evening, Sen. John McCain addressed a pool of reporters in Ohio, declaring that it was not the appropriate time or place for people to cast blame on Congress' failure to pass an economic bailout package.
"Now is not the time to affix the blame. It's time to fix the problem. I would hope that all our leaders, all of them, can put aside short-term political goals and do what's in the best interests of the American people."
It was an utter farce of a call for political level-headedness. The very sentence before McCain uttered those words, he lambasted "Senator Obama and his allies in Congress" for infusing "unnecessary partisanship into the process."
Ten minutes later, the Republican National Committee blasted out an email with the following subject header: "Obama Stood By, Did Nothing, And Showed No Leadership On The Bailout Negotiations."
Ten minutes after that, McCain's economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin blamed Democrats in the Congress for foiling the bill.
"Today that process broke down and it broke down quite frankly from partisan attacks from Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi on the floor," he said, "and quite frankly after a partisan attack, Republicans chose to fold their cards and rather than rise above those attacks they chose to walk away from the bill."
In fact, slightly more than an hour before McCain made his plea to cast political conflicts aside, his campaign -- through Holtz-Eakin -- was ripping Obama for a failure of leadership on the issue.
"Barack Obama failed to lead, phoned it in, attacked John McCain, and refused to even say if he supported the final bill," he said.
Asked to explain the seeming incongruity of it all, Holtz Eakin was evasive.
"I have sat in frustration and watched the tone of the attack over John McCain as he was accused of injecting presidential politics," he said, "when in fact he made every effort not to inject himself into the Senate and House negotiations... he has done in my estimation the finest of jobs in this, taking a process that was dead in the water and bring it to a vote today."
Now, attacking the opposition while simultaneously putting your hands up in innocence is nothing new in politics. But the actions of the McCain campaign late Monday indicate, at the very least, that they recognize a problematic narrative developing in political and media circles. The Senator wagered heavily on "suspending" his campaign, even taking credit for a bailout passage Sunday and Monday. In order to not seem political, he clung to the idea that he was forging a bipartisan compromise. When the proposal fell short of passage he didn't want the responsibility anymore, but the campaign still doesn't want to look like it's making electoral hay out of the crisis. And so, one gets these disjointed statements.