Both Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain left the West Wing without talking to reporters. Their silence spoke for itself.
David M. Herszenhorn and Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times reported that Sen. Shristopher Dodd (D-Conn) lokked tired and annoyed while complaining that late complications in the negotiations were making the episode sound more like “a rescue plan for John McCain,” than one for the country’s financial system.
It does no good, Mr. Dodd said, “to be distracted for two or three hours by political theater.”
The senator was apparently alluding to a growing revolt by conservative House Republicans against the proposed $700 billion rescue, and the fact that Senator McCain has not yet endorsed the plan, whose concept runs contrary to the policy positions he has taken for years.
Politico's David Rogers gave this report:
Democrats complained of being “blindsided” by a new conservative alternative to the plan first put forward by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. And the outcome casts doubt on the ability of Congress to move quickly on the matter, even after leaders of House and Senate banking committees reached a bipartisan agreement Thursday on the framework for legislation authorizing the massive government intervention.
It was McCain who urged President Bush to call the White House meeting attended by House and Senate leaders as well as Obama, his Democratic rival. But the candidates left without commenting to reporters outside, and the whole sequence of events confirmed Treasury’s fears about inserting presidential politics into what were already difficult negotiations.
AP gives this account:
Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, who have both sought to distance themselves from the unpopular Bush, sat down with the president at the White House for an hourlong afternoon session that was striking in this brutally partisan season and apparently without precedent. By also including Congress' Democratic and Republican leaders, the meeting gathered nearly all Washington's political power structure at one long table in a small West Wing room.
"All of us around the table ... know we've got to get something done as quickly as possible," Bush told reporters, brought in for only the start of the meeting. Obama and McCain were at distant ends of the oval table, not even in each other's sight lines. Bush, playing host in the middle, was flanked by Congress' two Democratic leaders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
No one else spoke, and all the visitors left the White House without talking to a huge media group gathered outside.