There is a lot of spin coming from the Democrats today that Sen. John McCain injected presidential politics into the bailout negotiations, causing them to stall. But ironically, if people can remember as far back as Monday, it was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid himself who called for McCain to help out.
Reid told Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Monday night that the White House must gain support from Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain if it hopes to ensure bipartisan backing for the bailout plan, according to multiple media reports, most of which cited Democratic sources.
And Erin P. Billings and John Stanton of Roll Call wrote on Wednesday:
McCain holds the key to such a bipartisan vote, according to Reid, because Republicans are likely to defer to his position on a bill that holds political peril. McCain on Tuesday night joined Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in lending qualified support for the $700 billion package, but it remains unclear whether his backing is strong enough and timely enough to persuade the Congressional rank and file.
Other key Democrats also wanted McCain involved in the process.
"I think if you look at the Republican side, at the McCain campaign and the leadership, I'm not convinced they are working to get their side to the table," Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said on Monday. "But the week is young." Casey is a member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
But as soon as McCain announced he would come to Washington (on his own, not because of a phone call from the president), Reid did a political about face and criticized the move that he advocated just hours earlier.
“If we lose progress on this because of one person, that’s John McCain,” Reid said. “He’s standing in the way.”
And in another press conference, Reid said, "It appears to me that John McCain is trying to divert attention from his failing campaign. Coming back here is not going to add to the process.” Reid said the Senate is “doing just fine” without McCain.
“We should not have presidential politics entering here.”
Before the white House meeting, Reid gave a terse one-word answer when asked by a reporter what he thought would come out of the meeting. “Nothing,” Reid replied.
So, who's playing presidential politics here?