Friday, September 26, 2008

Obama's Statement In Row 14

Obama spoke to the press on his plane, in row 14, according to the Swamp:
"I am optimistic that we can get something done. I think that there is real progress being made this morning and last night and I think it's important that the markets seem to be staying relatively calm at this point. And at this point, my strong sense is that the best thing that I can do, rather than to inject presidential politics into some delicate negotiations, is to go down to Mississippi and explain to the American people what is going on and my vision for leading the country over the next four years. I'm looking forward to the debate and look forward after the debate to coming back to Washington and hopefully getting a package done."
He answered questions.
Obama has handled the situation just right.
New Yorker: What a contrast yesterday. First, out comes McCain, looking drawn, jittery, and (to my admittedly jaundiced eye) guilty, with his announcement that he doesn’t want to debate on Friday because the financial crisis is too awful for a thing like politics to occur. He reads his statement and exits quickly. A couple of hours later, Obama appears. He looks and sounds like a President of the United States. He is preternaturally calm. He explains the chronology of the day: he called McCain at 8:30, the call was returned at 2:30, they discussed the idea of putting out a joint statement about the crisis. He says not a word about postponing the debate.

Then, unlike McCain, Obama takes questions. It becomes a full-fledged press conference. He eventually mentions the postponement. He says that during their phone call McCain had said it was something that ought to be looked at, and he had replied that they should get their joint statement out first. He makes it clear, in an offhand way, that McCain had blindsided him, but he does it without rancor. Perhaps there was a miscommunication, he suggests generously. He stresses his agreement with McCain that the crisis is neither Republican nor Democratic but American. He outlines some conditions he would like to see attached to the bailout bill but adds that both parties should refrain from loading it up with extraneous desiderata. He mentions a couple of specific examples of Democratic pet causes, including bankruptcy protection, that he doesn’t think should be in the bill. His manner with respect to the crisis is grave and businesslike, but he treats McCain’s debate-postponement demand as a minor matter that need not be taken too seriously. He notes dryly that both candidates have big airplanes with their names emblazoned and can easily travel to Oxford, Mississippi. He suggests that a potential President ought to be able to cope with more than one problem at a time.

Obama handled the situation perfectly. He didn’t have to point out that McCain’s cheap gambit was a cheap gambit. Surrogates, supporters, and, perhaps, the press would do that for him. And by treating the debate-postponement ploy as a detail, he slipped the trap McCain had set for him: either be bullied into obeying McCain’s order or be seen as putting politics above country. That’s how I saw it, anyhow. I have no idea if “the American people” will agree.