The press reported last week that one of the first things John McCain did upon “rushing back” to DC (as an aside, it took about 20 hours to get from New York to DC with stops along the way at Katie Couric’s desk and at the Clinton Global Initiative) to “meet until this crisis is resolved” was to meet with a number of his Senate colleagues where he “chided them for assenting to a deal without his input.” He then proceeded to play a lead role in blowing up the tentative Wall Street bailout deal worked out by Democrats and Republicans. Collectively, his behavior was a “What about me?” episode that every parent will recognize: I want to choose! Or, as President Bush once said, “I’m the decider and I’ll decide what’s best.”
Friday, the decider-in-waiting had a couple of meetings – less than an hour overall – with Republicans in both houses of Congress before backtracking on his demand to postpone the debate and flying off to Memphis. Yesterday, according to the McCain campaign, Senator McCain didn’t meet at all but instead worked the phones from his northern Virginia campaign office, calling various parties regarding the negotiations which had creaked back into motion. We’re not sure what he did or who he called, but the campaign told us he called President Bush; Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson; Fed chairman Ben S. Bernanke; Senator Mitch McConnell, Senator Judd Gregg, Senator Jon Kyl, Representative John A. Boehner and Representative Roy Blunt. He got to his office at about 12:30 PM, the deal was announced about twelve hours later; that’s about one phone call every 90 minutes, less if you assume he took a break for dinner.
This morning a number of behind-the-scenes accounts of how the deal was reached have been posted. Where’s the tick-tock on Senator McCain’s work in this effort?
Well, in the Wall Street Journal, he appears in the second-to-last paragraph (of 27 paragraphs): “Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, interviewed by ABC’s “This Week,” said, “This is something that all of us will swallow hard and go forward with.”
Senator McCain does better in the New York Times‘ write-up, appearing in the 10th paragraph (of 51 paragraphs overall):
At the same time, a series of phone calls was taking place, including conversations between Ms. Pelosi and President Bush; between Mr. Paulson and the two presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama; and between the candidates and top lawmakers.
And again in the 16th and 17th paragraphs:
Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain both expressed support for the rescue package early on Sunday, while adding that it was hardly a moment for taxpayers to cheer.
“This is something that all of us will swallow hard and go forward with,” Mr. McCain said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week.” “The option of doing nothing is simply not an option.”
And once more in the 44th paragraph:
Early in the day, the two presidential nominees were active from the sidelines. Mr. McCain telephoned Congressional Republicans to sound them out, and Mr. Obama got regular updates by phone from Mr. Paulson and top lawmakers.
In the Washington Post‘s coverage, Senator McCain appears not at all.
That’s some leadership. Some deciding.