Wednesday, September 24, 2008
John McCain will suspend his presidential campaign Thursday and has asked to postpone his debate Friday with Barack Obama so the two senators can return to Washington to help negotiate a Wall Street bailout, an approach that Obama promptly rejected.
“America this week faces an historic crisis in our financial system,” McCain said in mid-afternoon remarks to reporters in New York. “If we do not act, every corner of our country will be impacted. We cannot allow this to happen.”
Click here for a transcript of McCain’s announcement.
The move means running mate Sarah Palin will also suspend her campaign activities. The Republican presidential candidate asked the Presidential Debate Commission to postpone his first debate with Obama, which is scheduled to take place Friday night at the University of Mississippi in Oxford.
Obama responded by saying that such disruptive measures were unnecessary.
“Presidents are going to have to deal with more than one thing at a time,” Sen. Obama said. “It’s not necessary for us to think that we can only do one thing and suspend everything else.” He said that he and McCain have large campaign planes that can get them out of Mississippi and back to Washington quickly.
The debate commission released a statement saying it was moving forward with plans to hold the debate Friday.
Obama has since accepted an invitation from President Bush, according to his campaign, to attend a meeting Thursday in Washington, D.C., with congressional leaders. The same invitation was extended to McCain.
Obama said Wednesday he spoke earlier in the day with McCain, who suggested that they suspend the debate.
“I thought this was something that he was mulling over. Apparently this was something he was more decisive about in his own mind,” Obama said in a press conference in Florida, where he has been preparing for the debate.
Obama said the scrutiny of the bailout plan is nonpartisan and he would not allow it to become welfare for Wall Street executives or an opportunity for political ploys.
“There are times for politics and there are times to rise above them, do what is right for the country. This is one of those times,” he said.
McCain said he will leave the campaign trail after delivering an address to former President Clinton’s Global Initiative on Thursday morning. He canceled a Wednesday afternoon taping of The Late Show With David Letterman and a Thursday interview with FOX News. His campaign said he will suspend airing all ads and fundraising until Congress passes bailout legislation.
“We must pass legislation to address this crisis,” he said. “If we do not, credit will dry up, with devastating consequences for our economy. People will no longer be able to buy homes and their life savings will be at stake. Businesses will not have enough money to pay their employees.”
McCain will participate in Friday night’s debate if a bill is passed by Friday morning, his adviser Mark Salter said.
By stepping away from the first debate, McCain he is giving up an opportunity to show off his foreign policy credentials. He had negotiated strongly to make foreign policy, his strong suit, the topic of the first of the three debates. On the other hand, McCain has been criticized for being weak on the issue of economy
But McCain has fallen in recent polls — largely attributable to the economic crisis — and rival political analysts suggested McCain’s move was opportunistic and a chance to stem the free-fall.
On Wednesday, the FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll showed Obama had taken a 45-39 percent lead over McCain, in large part because of independent voters. A Washington Post poll also showed that most voters think Obama has a better approach to dealing with the economy than McCain.
The Obama campaign initially responded to the news that McCain was suspending his campaign by saying Obama earlier had suggested issuing a joint statement on the financial crisis.
“At 8:30 this morning, Senator Obama called Senator McCain to ask him if he would join in issuing a joint statement outlining their shared principles and conditions for the Treasury proposal and urging Congress and the White House to act in a bipartisan manner to pass such a proposal,” spokesman Bill Burton said.
“At 2:30 this afternoon, Senator McCain returned Senator Obama’s call and agreed to join him in issuing such a statement. The two campaigns are currently working together on the details,” Burton continued.
But McCain’s camp said Obama never reached McCain in the morning call because McCain was meeting with economic advisers and talking to leaders in Congress. Afterward, McCain phoned Obama and expressed deep concern that the plan on the table would not pass as it currently stands. He asked Obama to join him in returning to Washington to lead a bipartisan effort to solve this problem.
Both campaigns later issued the joint statement, which urged Democrats and Republican work together, and “rise above politics for the good of the country.”
Click here to read the joint statement.
McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer said McCain is just following his belief in putting the country first. She noted that he suspended the Republican National Convention when Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast and supported the unpopular troop surge in Iraq by saying he would rather win a war than win an election.
“We all watched the [Senate] hearings yesterday. … The bottom line is he did not think we would reach a conclusion and it’s absolutely imperative that we do so. This is vintage John McCain. He is going to put the country first and suspend the campaign,” Pfotenhauer told FOX News.
In his remarks to reporters, McCain said he did not think the Bush administration’s $700 billion bailout plan, being shepherded by Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, adequately addresses the crisis at hand.
“It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the administration’s proposal. I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time,” he said.
Neither McCain nor Obama has spent much time on Capitol Hill in recent months. The last vote McCain took was in April. Obama last voted in July.
In announcing McCain’s expected return, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell applauded his decision and said Republicans want to see included in the president’s bill limits on executive compensation, debt reduction, congressional oversight and taxpayer protections.
Obama’s closest confidant in the Senate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, took to the floor to say that Obama e-mailed him Tuesday night with the idea of talking to McCain about issuing a joint statement. Durbin said McCain and the bright lights and cameras of the campaign aren’t needed on Capitol Hill and will inject partisanship when it’s not needed. Durbin agreed all the debates should go forward, suggesting McCain was just reacting to poll numbers.
Other leading Democrats had harsh words for McCain. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said McCain was “injecting presidential politics” into the financial crisis.
“This notion of rushing to Washington and grandstanding — it’s silly, it’s impulsive, it’s erratic,” said Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats’ 2004 nominee.
McCain announced his decision shortly after the White House said President Bush will deliver an address to the nation Wednesday night. McCain called on Bush to convene a meeting of congressional leadership, in both chambers and parties, including him and Obama.
“It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem,” he said.
“I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people. All we must do to achieve this is temporarily set politics aside, and I am committed to doing so.”
“Obviously we appreciate the seriousness Senator McCain and other leaders — Senator Obama as well — are taking to this issue,” said deputy White House spokesman Tony Fratto said of McCain’s move.
FOX News’ Chad Pergram, Major Garrett and Trish Turner contributed to this report