John McCain looks like a fool.
"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his top aides took credit for building a winning bailout coalition – hours before the vote failed and stocks tanked.
The rush to claim he had engineered a victory now looks like a strategic blunder that will prolong the McCain’s campaign’s difficulty in finding a winning message on the economy.
Shortly before the vote, McCain had bragged about his involvement and mocked Sen. Barack Obama for staying on the sidelines.
“I've never been afraid of stepping in to solve problems for the American people, and I'm not going to stop now,” McCain told a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “Senator Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn't want to get involved. Then he was monitoring the situation.”
McCain, grinning, flashed a sarcastic thumbs-up.
“That's not leadership. That's watching from the sidelines,” he added to cheers and applause.
Wisely, in retrospect, McCain initially had been more modest. On Sunday, he said on ABC’s “This Week” that congressional negotiators deserve “great credit” for the bipartisan deal. “"It wasn’t because of me,” McCain said. “They did it themselves.”
But at almost the same time, McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt was saying on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “What Senator McCain was able to do … was to help get all of the parties to the table. There had been announcements by Senate leaders saying that a deal had been reached earlier in the week. There were no votes for that deal.
“Senator McCain knew time was short and he came back, he listened and he helped put together the framework of getting everybody to the table, which was necessary to produce a package to avoid a financial catastrophe for this country.”
On Monday morning, McCain campaign communications director Jill Hazelbaker said on Fox News that the deal would not have happened “without Senator McCain.”
“Senator McCain interrupted his campaign, suspended his campaign activity to come back to Washington to get Republicans around a table,” Hazelbaker said. “Without Senator McCain, House Republicans would not have appointed a negotiator, which would not have moved this bill forward.
“It’s really Senator McCain who got all parties around a table to hammer out a deal that hopefully is in the best interests of the American taxpayer.”
After the vote, commentators were harsh. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said: “He’s like a cavalry commander who said ‘Charge!’ and the Republicans went into retreat.”