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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trying to puzzle out John McCain's motive for the campaign suspension stunt is proving rather difficult. A lot of people are looking to Palin, both her disastrous Katie Couric interview and the repeated suggestion that hey, you know, we could just cancel the VP debate. (On the margins, Palin's so-called "preacher problem" is also showing up in these discussions; she definitely loses the secular progressive swing vote with this one.) Or maybe, others venture, he's trying to cover up his own lack of debate preparation. Still other people think he may be trying to keep the Rick Davis story out of the papers, as there's now word that Rick Davis didn't sever his relationship with his lobbying firm and is in fact still listed as one of its only two officers. And a lot of people just point to the polls—witness as just one example a Rasmussen poll that now puts Obama ahead right here in North Carolina (!). Or maybe we should just bring it all back, as Steve Benen does, to the fundamental question that recurs about so much of John McCain's gambles: cynicism, or risk addiction?

Whatever it is, it's worth noting that McCain has pulled this very stunt at least twice before.

Reactions have been legion, almost all of them negative, but Noam Scheiber in particular is on fire with posts that suggest just how badly this may backfire on McCain, comparing it first to a form of political hari-kari and then pointing out elsewhere the way in which the gambit automatically defeats itself:

"Tomorrow morning, I will suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative."
Clinton Global Intiative > financial crisis > longstanding-to-the-point-of-sacred tradition of nationally televised presidential debate? This will not stand.