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« Thurston Howell III endorses John McCain | Page One | Palin comparison: She's no Dan Quayle »

McCain sustains self-inflicted political wound

By John Breneman

Sen. John McCain's dramatic decision Wednesday to suspend his presidential campaign to rescue American voters from economic doom is already reaping dividends -- it is decreasing likelihood of an economically disastrous McCain presidency.

With his poll numbers plummeting, the "economic" situation was so urgent that McCain canceled a taping with David Letterman, probably an even bigger strategic blunder than admitting Tuesday that he had not yet read the three-page bailout proposal.

After praising McCain for his courage and heroism during the Vietnam War, Letterman tortured the Republican nominee with blunt comic instruments.

"You don't suspend your campaign," was Letterman's machine-gun refrain. "Are we suspending it because there's an economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding?"

Letterman said McCain phoned in to cancel with some excuse about having to jet down to Washington to save the economy. Then the late-night host pulled a "this just in" and showed video of McCain down the street taping an interview with Katie Couric.

"This just gets uglier and uglier," said Letterman, who pretended to yell to McCain offering him a ride to the airport.

"This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves," Letterman had said earlier. "I think someone's putting something in his Metamucil."

Letterman also skewered McCain's media quarantine of running mate Sarah Palin, saying that if McCain feels he's needed in Washington he should simply call upon his "second-string quarterback" to lead the campaign. What's the problem, he asked. "Where is she?"

Letterman's nightly Top 10 List also mocked McCain with these "Top 10 questions people are asking the McCain campaign":

#10: I just contributed to your campaign -- how do I get a refund?

#8: Can't you solve this by selling some of your homes?

#6: Do you still think the fundamentals of our economy are strong, genius?

#5: Are you doing all this just to get out of going on Letterman?

"First of all, the road to the White House runs through me," Letterman reminded.

"What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!" the late-night jokkernaut continued.

"Do you think he'll ever come back?" Letterman asked sidekick Paul Shaffer.

"Not after the drubbing that you've just delivered."

Steven Colbert offered his customary ironic support of the Republican, pointing out that when you're president you've got to suspend a lot of things: "Habeas Corpus," for example.

And noted stand-up comic Sen. Chris Dodd, Democratic chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, said McCain's gambit looks like "more of a rescue plan for John McCain and not a rescue plan for the economy."

McCain's rescue plan may have begun with an 8:30 Wednesday morning call from the Obama camp proposing a calm joint statement on the economic situation. Perhaps fearing that Obama might be credited with reaching out, McCain went commando.

According to reports, he finally returned Obama's call at 2:30 p.m. and agreed to issue a joint statement. But moments later he was announcing the suspension of his campaign and challenging Obama to do the same. No word yet if McCain will arrive at his Capitol Hill crisis-op by parachute.

He also proposed postponing his inevitable dismantling in Friday's presidential debate, prompting Obama to respond, "This is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately 40 days will be responsible for dealing with this mess."

Now, just as his campaign's strategic use of dishonesty has begun to draw more media attention, McCain is taking blows from the left and right charging blatant political opportunism and just plain erratic behavior.

However, McCain said there is no need to worry because the fundamentals of his campaign are strong.

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Posted on September 25, 2008 9:02 AM | Permalink

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