Hendrick's Busy Day

I love Rick Hertzberg because of stuff like this:
A Busy Day

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. Dick Morris doesn’t think so. On Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News, Morris was bubbling over with glee at the brilliance of it all. McCain’s maneuver, Morris said, was so clever it might have been orchestrated by Karl Rove himself. Maybe Morris is right. At the very least, McCain managed to prevent the cable chatterers from focusing on the news that his campaign manager had been on the Fannie Mae take right up to the moment last month when Fannie fell on her fanny.

A couple of hours later, Katie Couric, whose evening news program on CBS is reliably reported to have become the best of the big three, shows a few minutes of the interview she had taped that morning with Sarah Palin. Couric is both pleasanter and tougher than Charlie Gibson had been during the only other non-Fox interview the lady has condescended to give. For Palin, the interview excerpt begins badly. Couric asks about the campaign manager and the Fannie Mae payroll. Palin gives her answer, something about how her “understanding” is that the campaign manager had “recused himself.” Couric rephrases the question. Palin gives her answer again. It is nearly word for word the same as the first time. Chilling. The interview excerpt ends badly, too. Couric asks what, besides suggesting two years ago that there ought to be more oversight of the mortgage giants, McCain has ever done in his twenty-six years in Congress to change the way Wall Street does business. Palin points to McCain’s call for more oversight of the mortgage giants. Couric asks again. Palin says fondly that McCain is a maverick. Politely, a third time, Couric asks for specific examples. Pertly, Palin says, “I’ll try to find some and I’ll bring ‘em to ya.”

In other news, President Bush gave a nationally televised speech.

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