From the Interational Herald Tribune:
WASHINGTON: Republican John McCain has maneuvered himself into a political dead end and has five weeks to find his way out.
Last Wednesday, McCain suspended his presidential campaign to insert himself into a $700 billion effort to rescue America’s crumbling financial structure. In so doing, he tied himself far more tightly to the bill than did his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama.
Then, as the bailout plan appeared ready for passage Monday in the House of Representatives, McCain bragged that he was an action-oriented Teddy Roosevelt Republican who did not sit on the sidelines at a moment of crisis.
The implication: that he played a critical role in building bipartisan support for the unprecedented bailout.
Within hours, however, the measure died in the House mainly at the hands of McCain’s own Republicans.
Initially, McCain went silent, choosing instead to send his chief economic adviser out with a statement […]
“This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country,” McCain senior policy adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin said in a statement.
It wasn’t long, however, before McCain told reporters in Iowa: “Now is not the time to fix the blame, it’s time to fix the problem.”
All in all, McCain might have been better served by staying out of the mess and above the fray.
If Congress’ impasse leads to a credit crisis, “it’s not going to be good for McCain,” said veteran Republican consultant John Feehery.
As the plan failed Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 780 points, the largest one-day point drop ever. Credit markets, whose turmoil helped feed the stock market’s deep anxiety, froze up further with the growing belief that the country is headed into a spreading credit and economic crisis.
Stunned traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange watched on TV screens as the House voted down the plan, and they saw stock prices tumbling on their monitors.
After the House defeated the bailout, Obama — campaigning in swing-state Colorado — declared McCain had “fought against commonsense regulations for decades, he’s called for less regulation 20 times just this year, and he said in a recent interview that he thought deregulation has actually helped grow our economy.”
“Senator, what economy are you talking about?” Obama asked.
McCain has been routinely wrong-footed on the slumping U.S. economy throughout the campaign, starting from last year when he said he was not as up on that subject as he would like to be.
Polls have consistently shown voters place greater trust in Obama to pull the country out of a financial crisis that has not been matched since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
McCain — apparently obsessed with those facts — gambled last Wednesday by declaring he had suspended campaigning to bring his considerable bipartisan credentials to bear in congressional negotiations with the Bush administration. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson sent the enormous bailout package to Congress 11 days ago and said passage was urgent.
The measure went down 228-205, with more than two-thirds of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats opposed.
Befitting the history being made on Capitol Hill, legislative leaders matched their rhetoric to the occasion.
“The legislation may have failed; the crisis is still with us,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat. “What happened today cannot stand.”
Republicans blamed Pelosi’s scathing speech near the close of the debate — which attacked President George W. Bush’s economic policies and a “right-wing ideology of anything goes, no supervision, no discipline, no regulation” — for the vote’s failure.
“We could have gotten there today had it not been for the partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House,” said Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican.
Missouri Republican Roy Blunt, the House whip, estimated that Pelosi’s speech changed the minds of a dozen Republicans who might otherwise have supported the plan.
That was a remarkable accusation by Republicans against Republicans, said Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.
“Because somebody hurt their feelings, they decided to punish the country,” he deadpanned.