As Matt Welch pointed out yesterday, this isn't the first time John McCain "suspended his campaign" to get out front on an unfolding crisis. He did it with Kosovo, and he did it last summer when he returned to the Senate to bat away Democratic bills that hamstrung funding for the surge. In neither case did it hurt him. In both cases, it boosted him. That explains the political thinking behind his latest stunt. The policy thinking, though? I mean, is there any? Does McCain need to be in Washington to personally solve the problem and cast a deciding vote.
It's not clear that he does. The conservatives at Newsbusters point to a CBS News report as evidence that McCain needed to parachute into the Capitol, guns-a-blazin', knife in his teeth.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Sen. Lindsey Graham yesterday that the bailout plan would fail unless McCain came in and brought balky Republicans aboard.
But that's not exactly what Bob Scheiffer said.
Paulson then called, according to my sources, Senator Lindsey Graham, who is very close to John McCain, and told him: you've got to get the people in the McCain campaign, you've got to convince John McCain to give these Republicans some political cover. If you don't do that, this whole bailout plan is going to fail.
My emphasis. One, Paulson didn't (at least in this account) ask for McCain to come to Washington. Two, all McCain needed to do was allow Republicans the wiggle room to support a bailout that would inevitably be massaged by Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. McCain could have done that from a press conference in SpaceShipOne.
What actually happened this week were Democrats and the White House staring each other down, a rump of Republicans protesting any bailout, and a majority of the Congress slowly getting behind a deal. It wasn't bogged down until 3 p.m. yesterday. The effect of McCain's decision seems to be… lots of Republicans praising John McCain.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, also praised McCain's announcement.
"He is saying, I am an American first and a Republican second," Hensarling said. "So God bless him for that…It clearly shows what kind of a leader he would be."
Other Republican leaders also praised McCain.
"Senator McCain's announcement that he will return to Washington to confront the economic crisis facing our nation is a testament to the fact that John McCain is a guy who would rather be part of the solution than runaway from the fight," said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt.
As I typed this up, I saw McCain spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer on Fox News—her of the "suspended" McCain campaign—attacking Barack Obama for not feeling a similar flush of country first-ness.