An idle political question about the bailout

The New York Times reports that, “Lawmakers indicated Thursday that they were close to hashing out an agreement on a proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial system, hours before a meeting at the White House to complete the deal.”  Here’s my question — given how McCain has played this, doesn’t he have a massive ...

The New York Times reports that, "Lawmakers indicated Thursday that they were close to hashing out an agreement on a proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial system, hours before a meeting at the White House to complete the deal."  Here's my question -- given how McCain has played this, doesn't he have a massive incentive to prevent any consensus out until, oh, say, after Friday's debate?  Ah, sure enough, we get to this paragraph:  Speaking at a gathering in Midtown Manhattan, Senator McCain, in comments that ran counter to those of Congressional Democrats, said on Thursday morning that no consensus had developed among lawmakers to support the bailout plan. Of course, a consensus puts McCain in a real bind -- he can't claim to be exercising leadership if a consensus is happening without him.  On the other hand, he can't exactly block consensus, cause that would look kind of political.  The very interesting question of the day is what the Bush administration and congressional Republicans will do.  Developing.... UPDATE:  Ah, great minds think alike.... and then there's me and James Pethokoukis.  He asks a similar question:  How the bailout turns! If John McCain came out against the Paulson Plan, effectively killing it, would he not a) likely vault back into the lead vs.Barack Obama by opposing a trillion dollar bailout—maverick style!—that voters hate even if they think it somehow necessary, b) lock up working-class, "Sam's Club" voters in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and c) send the base into Palinesque waves of ecstasy since Newt Gingrich/Rush Limbaugh/ Conservative Blogosphere have been ripping the bailout to shreds? But wouldn't McCain also risk a) forever alienating wealthy economic conservatives in Manhattan and Connecticut, b) looking like he is stabbing the White House in the back, and c) sending the markets into a death spiral? I have to think that last point is the one that matters.  I don't doubt that the bailout is unpopular, but I'm betting that death spiral capital markets will cause a pretty rapid shift in public opinion.  UPDATE:  Politico's Martin Kady II reports on an agreement on "principles."  This quote stood out:  Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), the top GOP negotiator in the Senate, said, "We have a plan that will pass the House, pass the Senate and be signed by the president, and bring certainty to the markets." Has McCain arrived in DC yet? 

The New York Times reports that, “Lawmakers indicated Thursday that they were close to hashing out an agreement on a proposed $700 billion bailout of the financial system, hours before a meeting at the White House to complete the deal.”  Here’s my question — given how McCain has played this, doesn’t he have a massive incentive to prevent any consensus out until, oh, say, after Friday’s debate?  Ah, sure enough, we get to this paragraph: 

Speaking at a gathering in Midtown Manhattan, Senator McCain, in comments that ran counter to those of Congressional Democrats, said on Thursday morning that no consensus had developed among lawmakers to support the bailout plan.

Of course, a consensus puts McCain in a real bind — he can’t claim to be exercising leadership if a consensus is happening without him.  On the other hand, he can’t exactly block consensus, cause that would look kind of political.  The very interesting question of the day is what the Bush administration and congressional Republicans will do.  Developing…. UPDATE:  Ah, great minds think alike…. and then there’s me and James Pethokoukis.  He asks a similar question

How the bailout turns! If John McCain came out against the Paulson Plan, effectively killing it, would he not a) likely vault back into the lead vs.Barack Obama by opposing a trillion dollar bailout—maverick style!—that voters hate even if they think it somehow necessary, b) lock up working-class, “Sam’s Club” voters in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and c) send the base into Palinesque waves of ecstasy since Newt Gingrich/Rush Limbaugh/ Conservative Blogosphere have been ripping the bailout to shreds? But wouldn’t McCain also risk a) forever alienating wealthy economic conservatives in Manhattan and Connecticut, b) looking like he is stabbing the White House in the back, and c) sending the markets into a death spiral?

I have to think that last point is the one that matters.  I don’t doubt that the bailout is unpopular, but I’m betting that death spiral capital markets will cause a pretty rapid shift in public opinion.  UPDATE:  Politico’s Martin Kady II reports on an agreement on “principles.”  This quote stood out: 

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), the top GOP negotiator in the Senate, said, “We have a plan that will pass the House, pass the Senate and be signed by the president, and bring certainty to the markets.”

Has McCain arrived in DC yet? 

Daniel W. Drezner is a professor of international politics at Tufts University’s Fletcher School. He blogged regularly for Foreign Policy from 2009 to 2014. Twitter: @dandrezner

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