In the most dramatic event of the Presidential campaign, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain has officially suspended his campaign and canceled public appearances so that he can return to Washington and be fully involved in efforts to put together legislation to meet President Bush's call for government support for the unstable mortgage and securities markets.
McCain called for Senator Obama to follow his lead and called "on the president to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself" to find a bipartisan solution to the crisis and in an apparent effort to expedite the lawmaking process and perhaps shortcut Democratic efforts to add pork-like provisions to the proposed legislation to favor pet constituencies. (VIDEO)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was not pleased with the possibility of two presidential candidates appearing on the floor of the Senate and possibly politicizing the legislative process. He commented that "it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation's economy."
However, McCain's credentials on the issue of banking and mortgage reform are well established, with his membership in the Senate Commerce Committee and his prior efforts to address instability in the mortgage industry through his sponsorship of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, which was killed in committee by Democrats with ties to the mortgage industry. Had that act passed, the current crisis, which McCain predicted in alarming detail in a 2006 speech, would have been avoided.
With foreclosures cumulatively still under 5% and little public sympathy for fat-cat mortgage bankers or unwise borrowers who bought houses beyond their means, a recent Rasmussen poll shows that only 7% of the public support government efforts to rescue failing financial giants. McCain and his fellow senators face the difficult double challenge of framing workable legislation while at the same time convincing a skeptical public that their proposed shoring up of the financial system will be worth the massive cost of almost $1 trillion in loans and guarantees.
McCain's decision to place his obligations as a legislator ahead of his interests as a candidate may prove to be a very smart political move if the public sees it as genuine rather than calculated, and if the resulting legislation avoids triggering the wrath of disgruntled voters who want a stable economy but not at their expense, or without holding those responsible for the current crisis accountable. Yet it is a high risk move if McCain finds himself signing onto an unpopular proposal or sidelined and contributing nothing but campaign-style hot air.
In making this decision and challenging Senator Obama to join him, McCain is capitalizing on one of the advantages of picking Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. If he and Obama and Biden all head back to the Senate for the rest of the week, that leaves Palin with the campaign spotlight all to herself, and she has shown she knows how to make the most of it.