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Sunday, September 28, 2008

How the candidates spent the day after the first debate

My latest guest-post at HughHewitt.com could have been devoted to Joe Biden's facial expression in the photograph above. Instead, it's devoted to the fact that while John McCain worked the phones on the day after the first presidential debate to try to save the financial security of the country, Biden and Barack Obama spent the day promoting The One's presidential ambitions.

When I suggested three weeks ago that the McCain-Palin campaign ditch the "Country First" motto, I didn't realize Barack Obama would provide quite so many vivid counter-examples during the actual campaign.

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

John McCain spent the morning after the first general-election presidential debate working the phones:

Senior adviser Mark Salter said the Arizona senator spent the morning at his campaign headquarters placing calls to congressional leaders and White House officials involved in finalizing a multibillion-dollar deal to bail out failing financial firms. Earlier in the week McCain suspended most campaign activities to help develop a bipartisan agreement....

"He can effectively do what he needs to do by phone," Salter said Saturday. "He's calling members on both sides, talking to people in the administration, helping out as he can."

Once again, faced with the choice between country and career, John McCain chose country. He'd rather lose a campaign than risk our country's fundamental economic security.

No legislator wants to admit that he had to be cajoled into doing the right thing for his country, and so probably both McCain and everyone he influenced will keep mum on how much effect McCain's vigorous phone campaign actually had. But USA Today reports that a bipartisan coalition of "House and Senate negotiators [announced that they had] worked out a tentative deal with the White House late Saturday."

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks as vice-presidental nominee Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) tries to stay awake during a campaign rally on Saturday, Sep. 27, at the J. Douglas Galyon Depot in Greensboro, NC (photo: USA Today/Steve Dykes/Getty)

By very sharp contrast:

Obama, meanwhile, stuck to his campaign schedule which will take him and Biden from here to two other swing states this weekend: Virginia and Michigan....

Though he has dismissed the presidential candidates' intervention in the bailout talks as counterproductive grandstanding, Obama expressed forceful opinions about what the deal should — and should not — include.

"I will not allow this plan to become a welfare program for Wall Street executives," he told the crowd here. And he suggested an additional $50 billion in aid for the unemployed and investments in infrastructure should be part of the deal.

"Washington has to feel the same sense of urgency about passing an economic stimulus plan" as it does about rescuing mega-investors, said Obama, who spoke by phone Saturday about the state of the negotiations with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Got that? Obama spoke only to the real leaders of his own party on this matter, who obviously have not needed or particularly wanted his involvement, along with the Bush-43 Administration's representative (who is already scrambling to get a deal in place). The nation's financial future is at risk, but The One can only manage to make time for a total of three phone calls, and none of those were even to people who needed to be persuaded to support a bill.

We don't yet have details on what is and isn't included in the compromise agreement in principle reached late Saturday night. Based on what he told the public, however, even in those three calls, Obama wasn't urging his colleagues to make compromises that would trim the pork-and-graft potential which has so disturbed fiscal conservatives from both parties. Instead he wanted to hold the deal hostage to a $50 billion giveaway, plus drum up a little more class warfare (as if Main Street and Wall Street are competitors in a zero-sum game, instead of mutually dependent components whose health is essential to sustain economic growth).

That would frighten me a lot more if I actually thought Obama had any substantial influence on this deal or any of the actual decision-makers. My expectation is that it will include some sorts of salary-related restrictions on some private-sector executives who are involved in the implementation of the plan — that much was already under discussion before Obama even returned to Washington on McCain's heels last week — but I remain hopeful that it isn't heavily larded with pork.

You may or may not support the deal. I'm not certain myself, and won't be until I see the details, of course. But of one thing I'm very certain: In this crisis, as so often before, regardless of whether you or I think he was in the right or in the wrong, John McCain has consistently put duty ahead of ambition.

Barack Obama can't point to a single instance in his entire life in which he's put his ambitions at risk for any higher cause. Not one. And that does frighten me.

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UPDATE (Sun Sep 28 @ 1:00 p.m. CST): This useful summary of the terms of the tentative deal (h/t InstaPundit), compared side-by-side to the original Paulson proposal and the Pelosi-Frank proposed add-ons, does not include Obama's $50 billion in pork, anything for ACORN, or the bankruptcy law changes. The restrictions on executive compensation apparently don't affect companies and industries other than those directly involved in the plan's execution, so the restructions can be justified as fiscal restraint rather than class warfare.

This confirms that Obama wasn't ever a meaningful player in the negotiations, and although it's impossible to be "happy" about it, this describes a bill that I can support. Hugh makes the very good point above that if it indeed passes as described, this bill will be an example of responsible governance for which both the Bush Administration and congressional leaders deserve due credit. To that, I would only add this: Among the leaders who also deserve credit are those fiscal conservatives and grown-ups from both parties from outside the Pelosi and Reid camps — certainly including at least some House Republicans among them — who, in response to constituent objections, appear to have shorn away at least the most egregious give-aways.

To say "It could have been so much worse!" may be damning by faint praise, but Hugh's absolutely right that elections have consequences, and a consequence of 2006 is that occasions for even faint praise are rare enough now. If Obama should win, we'll still have some occasions to celebrate restraint dictated by a loose and shifting coalition of Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats — but not very many, and the trends are likely to be disappointing. 

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 02:21 AM in 2008 Election, Congress, Current Affairs, McCain, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Dai Alanye made the following comment | Sep 28, 2008 10:56:23 AM | Permalink

I put this up on Townhall, but my ego tells me it is sufficiently insightful to bear repeating. (With suitable copy-editing.)

Who accomplished what:

This"crisis" is in microcosm how the two candidates operate. McCain initially ran off in three directions, eager to do something--anything! Obama initially froze, then voted Present.

McCain dropped (almost) everything to join the fight, while Obama offered to receive phonecalls. McCain went to Washington, Obama unwillingly tagged along.

In the key meeting Mac said little beyond pointing out that the House Republicans must be part of the solution. Barry took over to accuse the Republicans of *being* the problem, and the meeting broke up in acrimony.

But the House Repubs finally got into the action with McCain's assist. Overnight they managed to get their way in reducing the giveaways in the proposed bill, giving it a fighting chance of passing.

This morning McCain is working the phones to keep matters going while Obama and his surrogates dish out propaganda to the effect that He, the Anointed One, broke the deadlock. John Kerry has been particularly ludicrous, claiming that Barack has been in continual contact with Secretary Paulson, as if that would have any valuable effect even if true.

Obama's known record is exactly similar to what has just occurred. He takes an aloof position, lets others get the job done, then steps in to claim credit, meanwhile obfuscating his mistakes and lack of useful actions. He has done this in the Illinois legislature, in the U S Senate, and on the campaign trail. I have no doubt it was his standard mode in the private sector, for his legend has certainly been exaggerated right down the line.

But give him credit--he is extremely skilled at pretending to be a doer rather than an observer.

(2) Paul Gordon made the following comment | Sep 28, 2008 6:40:08 PM | Permalink

Re: the townhall site ...

Apologies for the comments section there

Beldar:

You probably knew perfectly well what you were getting into by posting there.

All the same, it's a shame that thoughtful comments there get lost in a cesspool of venom from adolescent children who probably don't even give a damn about what is at stake here, beyond wondering if it will affect their allowances.

(3) Neo made the following comment | Sep 29, 2008 7:32:37 PM | Permalink

Great photo .. but where is Joe's dunce hat ?

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