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Obama Rebuffs McCain’s Call to Delay Debate Amid Crisis

Sen. John McCain called for Friday's debate to be delayed amid the financial crisis, a move quickly rebuffed by Sen. Barack Obama. Analysts Ruth Marcus and Byron York assess the developments.

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    And for that, we're joined by Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus and Byron York of the National Review.

    Ruth, Byron, Barack Obama and John McCain both said today it's time to rise above politics. But wasn't today, at least as far as the two of them were concerned, mostly about politics?

  • BYRON YORK, National Journal:

    Yes, it certainly was. I talked to a senior person at the McCain campaign not long ago and said, "Well, why did he come out and say this?"

    And they said, "Well, he saw today that the administration plan had just run into so much opposition." I think the headline of the Washington Post on the front page was that the Bush plan had met bipartisan outrage.

    So he felt like he needed to go back and do that, which I think, if he had stopped there, would be a very, very smart move, because these guys are senators and they're both the leaders of their party now. So the idea that they would be taking a leading role in the biggest thing that the Congress has done in quite a while would be reasonable.

    Then, he took the step farther to say he's suspending all political activity — political activity, campaign activity, meaning the debate, as well.

    Obviously, Obama has said no. And they appear to be in this kind of standoff right now, because I said, "Well, OK, now Obama has just said no. What are you going to do?"

    And they said, "Well, we said we're going to suspend all campaign activity."

    Perhaps there could be a compromise. You know, the debate is supposed to be about foreign policy, national security. Maybe it could be changed. Who knows what kind of compromise could be reached?

  • RUTH MARCUS, Washington Post:

    I thought the candidates had done actually a reasonably good job in the last few weeks of trying to keep politics to the extent that they could out of it. They were sniping at each other, but they weren't sniping in ways that affected this deal.

    And I completely agree, if he had stopped at, "It's really important, and Barack Obama and I are going to hold hands together and get us over this patch," which is what the Obama campaign argues that it was trying to achieve today, that would have been great.

    I think that the notion that he's not going to debate — first of all, everybody understands we don't need John McCain in the room negotiating the fine print to get this fixed, nor Barack Obama, and they can take the time to have the debate.

    And it just brought politics hugely into the picture. John McCain was out there, the way I saw it, saying, "I'm — hi, I'm the one who really cares about the economy. I just" — he just, from the Obama campaign's perspective, has literally just hung up the phone with Obama and saying, "Let's do a joint statement," and went out there, and unilaterally made this challenge to make him look like he was the one who really cared about the economy.

    That is not a good way to get politics out of the picture.

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