Ladies and gentlemen, we've been bamboozled, led astray, run amuck...I tell ya we've been had (at least some of us anyway). If there was ever any question as to whether Senator John McCain suspended his campaign last week for leadership purposes in an effort to go back to Congress and "work on the Bailout Bill" or simply as a mere political stunt to draw attention to his campaign, the aftermath of the bill itself has certainly answered that question for us. Indeed, proverbial hindsight once again proves itself to be 20/20 as America witnessed John McCain and Sarah Palin take to the Ohio campaign stage in a very un-suspended manner on Monday around 1 PM eastern time while the bill was still not yet resolved. By 2pm eastern, the bill had been defeated in the House of Representatives; 205 in favor, 228 against. 133 of the 228 nay votes (roughly 60%) came from the House Republicans, the very people that John McCain had supposedly gone back to Congress to "work" on.
But let's come back to that. Before we delve too deeply into the details surrounding the vote, let's back up and look at the facts surrounding McCain's decision to suspend his campaign. On Wednesday, September 24th, 2008, John McCain held a news conference where he said:
"Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I have spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision and have asked him to join me.
I am calling on the President to convene a meeting with the leadership from both houses of Congress, including Senator Obama and myself. It is time for both parties to come together to solve this problem.
We must meet as Americans, not as Democrats or Republicans, and we must meet until this crisis is resolved. I am directing my campaign to work with the Obama campaign and the commission on presidential debates to delay Friday nights debate until we have taken action to address this crisis.
I am confident that before the markets open on Monday we can achieve consensus on legislation that will stabilize our financial markets, protect taxpayers and homeowners, and earn the confidence of the American people."
There's no doubt that this move made national headlines. Further, the move created an immediate impression that McCain, himself a Senator, was taking the noble position of "returning to Congress" because he is, after all, a Senator and that's where Senators belong right? Not exactly.
More than likely we all learned about Congress in our middle school civics classes at some point. Congress has two halves: the Senate and the House of Representatives. And, apparently, they "write" the laws or something like that. However, what we often didn't learn in our civics classes is how that whole "writing the laws" thing actually works.
To make a long story short, when issues come into Congress, they are "worked on" by specific committees and then when the committee is ready, it presents the Bill to the floor for a vote. In the case of the Bailout Bill, it goes to the Banking Committee in the Senate and to the Committee on Financial Services in the House. The Senate Banking Committee is currently made up of only 20 of the 100 Senators. They are:
On the Democratic Side:
Christopher Dodd Connecticut (Chairman)
Tim Johnson South Dakota
Jack Reed Rhode Island
Chuck Schumer New York
Evan Bayh Indiana
Tom Carper Delaware
Robert Menendez New Jersey
Daniel Akaka Hawaii
Sherrod Brown Ohio
Robert P. Casey, Jr. Pennsylvania
Jon Tester Montana
And on the Republican Side:
Richard Shelby Alabama (Ranking Member)
Bob Bennett Utah
Wayne Allard Colorado
Michael Enzi Wyoming
Chuck Hagel Nebraska
Jim Bunning Kentucky
Mike Crapo Idaho
Elizabeth Dole North Carolina
Mel Martinez Florida
Bob Corker Tennessee
This is the entire list of every United States Senator who is actually responsible for "working" on this Bailout Bill and presenting it to the Senate floor. These are the Senators who are actually responsible for meeting, negotiating, and sitting down and putting pen to paper in drafting the actual Bill. These are the Senators who NEED to be in Congress right now. It is notable to observe that neither Barack Obama of Illinois, nor John McCain of Arizona are among the names listed above. So for either Obama or McCain to make the claim that they are suspending their campaigns in order to go back and actually "work" on the Bailout Bill in their capacity as Senators is not only odd and unusual, but it also has the virtue of being complete and utter bullsh*t. Furthermore, for McCain to say he's going "back to Washington" is especially misleading in this instance given the fact that the American people, by and large, have no idea how the Senate works. It is difficult to imagine that Senator McCain was unaware of this fact before he decided to announce this move on national television.
Nevertheless, let us assume for a moment that this was not Senator McCain's intention. Let us further assume that when Senator McCain announced his plan to suspend his campaign and "return to Washington" that he did so with the intentions of effectuating change in some way that did not involve the Senate Banking Committee. This would seem to comport with many news reports that McCain, in his role as the current leader of the Republican party ticket, was returning to Washington in order to rally House Republicans who had made it crystal clear from the onset that they had many problems with the Bill as it was written. That being the case, how did McCain do here? In his capacity as the current Republican ticket leader, the Republicans of the United States House of Representatives were so inspired by McCain's leadership that 60% of them disregarded his plea to pass the Bill and, in fact, voted against it, killing it on the House floor on Monday, September 29th, 2008. It is notable to observe here that McCain's entire delegation of Representatives from his home state of Arizona were among the 60% of Republicans who voted against his wishes when they voted to kill the Bill. How's that for leadership?
Now many of you reading this may ask "well what about Obama" or "well what about the Democrats." What role did they play in the Bill's failure? Well let me first say, I'm not arguing that either side of the aisle is without blame for Monday's killing of the Bailout Bill. After all, 95 House Democrats contributed to its demise. And let me also say for the record, that despite the aforementioned facts, I honestly do not feel that it is Senator McCain's fault that the Bill was defeated. Not at all. The vote that went down Monday was going to happen whether McCain injected himself into the middle of Congress or not. In short, McCain had no role here, be it one of self-proclaimed leadership or otherwise.
But that is precisely my point - that John McCain "suspended" his campaign, drew massive amounts of attention towards himself in the name of the Bailout Bill, created an image of somebody who is "presidential" and a "leader" who can solve America's crisis in Congress, and in the end none of it turned out to be true. His campaign was never suspended. He appeared at the debate with Barack Obama anyway despite making the claim that he would not debate until the Bill was resolved. He continued to campaign in Ohio on Monday, September 29th, 2008 while the Bill was still not yet resolved. He is not a member of the Senate Banking Committee who actually worked on the Bill. And he had no effect in garnering the requisite number of House Republicans needed to vote for the Bill's passage. And by the way, while on the campaign trail in Ohio on Monday, he made it a point to tell the crowd that he "went to work" while Obama "sat on the sidelines" in reference to working on the Bill that he didn't work on (a true leader working purely for leadership's sake would not feel the need to point out their leadership to the masses - it should speak for itself). The totality of these circumstances confirms to us beyond a reasonable doubt that McCain's decision to "suspend" his campaign and return to Washington was, in the end, merely a political stunt.