Let's get real. John McCain didn't ask to move the debate on Friday because he genuinely thought that if he and Obama went into DC on Friday that they would magically be able to solve the financial bailout problem. I hope the journalists in this country are savvy enough to understand by now that what politicians say and what they mean are usually two totally different things.
Come on, who really believes that McCain thinks that if he and Obama don't go into DC together -- specifically on Friday, when the debate was scheduled -- that the business of the country cannot be resolved? Why don't they go in together on Thursday or Saturday?
Politicians on both sides of the aisle try to play these situations, no matter how important, to their political advantage -- especially in the middle of a presidential contest. To not understand that as a reporter is to commit gross journalistic negligence. So, it should be reported as such. This is a political gambit by McCain, pure and simple.
Now, to the equally important question of why. My first reaction was, "Wow, he's scared!" I couldn't quite believe the move. It shows such fundamental weakness. But that alone could not be the answer. There's no way a major presidential candidate is going to get so intimidated by a debate -- that is already scheduled -- that he is going to try to duck it two days before it happens. That's inconceivable.
Then I realized why they didn't want to have this debate now. The first debate is on foreign policy. Conventional wisdom and the McCain camp believe this is their strong suit. But the news cycle is dominated right now by the economic problems, which plays to Obama's advantage. There was already news out that some of the questions would have to be about the economic situation at hand. And those are the questions that would naturally make the most news.
It's not that the McCain campaign doesn't want to have this debate; it's that they don't want to have it now. They think it is terrible timing for their side. They want people to focus on the foreign policy debate and this would be the worst possible time for that.
I have never been convinced that foreign policy is a strength for John McCain, so I think his calculation is off there. But more importantly, the McCain team has decided that they could play this off as some sort of patriotic act rather than the crass political calculation that it is. If there is any decent press in the country at all, then that calculation should prove to be the worst one yet.
UPDATE -- Now, they want to move the VP debate, too. This is embarrassing! I've never seen anything like this. There is not even an excuse as to why they should move the VP debate which is all the way at the end of next week. She's just not ready. This is a stunning admission.
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