Bailout Bombs

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 30, 2008; 11:19 AM

Maybe John McCain's Republican friends in the House had good reason to vote against the bailout package yesterday, helping send the Dow down 777 points. After all, just about everyone hates this bill.

But to blame it on having their feelings hurt by a Nancy Pelosi speech? When nearly two-thirds of House Democrats voted for the Bush bill and two-thirds of the Republicans voted against it?

I don't know what the impact will be on the markets, but I can't imagine this will be terribly helpful to McCain, who made a great show of huddling with the House GOP last week to try to get a bill passed. As the finger-pointing mounts, will voters blame the Republicans for breaking with a president of their own party or take a pox-on-both-your-houses approach to the dysfunctional spectacle of Washington?

Next time you see congressional leaders say they have a deal in principle, check your wallet. "In principle" is meaningless inside the Beltway.

Look, the idea of massive federal intervention in the free market strikes at the heart of conservative principles. But Bush, Paulson and McCain argued that the specter of a banking collapse was so grave that we had no choice. Their party didn't buy it.

A McCain statement blamed Barack Obama for phoning it in. But -- leaving aside the merits of that argument -- the Dems delivered the votes, 133 Repubs voted no. How exactly is that Obama's fault?

Besides, it was only Sunday that Steve Schmidt was telling Tom Brokaw: "What Senator McCain was able to do was to help bring all of the parties to the table, including the House Republicans, whose votes were needed to pass this."

"When the deal fell apart on the House floor Monday, in no small measure because most of the chamber's Republicans balked at voting for it," says the NYT, "the McCain campaign worked to contain the potential for damage. The first defense was to go on offense.

"Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior McCain adviser, said 'partisan attacks' by Senator Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress had caused some Republicans uncertain about the legislation to turn against it and so had 'put at risk the homes, livelihoods and savings of millions of American families.' The Obama campaign immediately dismissed that response as 'angry and hyperpartisan.' "

USA Today: "Bush's weak political standing even in his own party and sharp partisan divisions in the House may have contributed to the plan's demise, but it was old-fashioned politics that killed the bill. In the end, too many lawmakers weren't willing to risk losing their jobs."

Slate's Daniel Gross: "It's clear that the chaos is poison for the top of the ticket. McCain's poll numbers have eroded throughout September as the financial crisis picked up pace. The volatility in the markets doesn't seem to be doing much for the more volatile candidate in the race. Every time the market falls a few hundred points, Obama seems to pick up support."

Meanwhile, I seem to have kicked up a fuss on the blogs with my column yesterday reporting that CBS has tape of more potentially embarrassing answers by Sarah Palin. These are part of Katie Couric's "Questions" series -- Joe Biden fields the same queries -- and will air Wednesday and Thursday.

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