Yesterday, 205 members of Congress (140 Democrats, 65 Republicans) voted for the banking bailout package, while 228 Congressmen and women voted against (95 Democrats, 133 Republicans). These are the basic facts: not enough people from both sides of the aisle cast their votes in favor of the bill. Yet, the version of events that’s slowly taking shape in some corners of the media is that the Democrats are to blame. Time to batten down the hatches, folks; this narrative is all wet.
The McCain camp’s talking points have appeared throughout the media:
Politico’s The Crypt blog: “Some members of the House GOP are blaming Speaker Pelosi’s hard-edged partisan speech for the loss.”
The Los Angeles Times: “Sen. Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process,” McCain said, referring to the failed House vote. He continued: “Now is not the time to fix the blame; it’s time to fix the problem.”
McCain’s campaign went further, with senior policy advisor Doug Holtz-Eakin placing the blame squarely on the Democratic presidential candidate and his party.
“This bill failed because Barack Obama and the Democrats put politics ahead of country,” he said.
Politico: A review of the video of Pelosi’s comments shows the speaker deviated substantially from her prepared remarks when she stepped into the well of the House at about 12:20 p.m. Monday afternoon - delivering a series of ad-libbed jabs at President Bush and his party.
Why did Nancy Pelosi sink the rescue package and Barack Obama and Harry Reid allow her to do so?
Even as McCain was telling reporters in Iowa that “now is not the time to fix the blame, it’s time to fix the problem,” his campaign was issuing statements criticizing “partisan attacks” by Democrats “to gain political advantage during a national economic crisis.”
Obviously, both Democrats and Republicans would like to profit politically from their deft handling of this crisis. But it’s worth noting that, by “suspending” his campaign in hopes of positioning himself as the sort of take-charge leader for whom Americans would like to vote, John McCain was the first one to use this national economic crisis to gain political advantage. This is not the first example of a dramatic move by McCain’s campaign: with Obama up in the polls, McCain suspended his campaign; after the Democratic convention, McCain chose a headline grabbing running mate. The Arizona senator learned long ago that the media will follow a loud, screaming story as long as it has sizzle and then some (see: pig, lipstick on a), and he continues to exploit this weakness. We can’t ask John McCain to behave himself, but we, the media, can think twice about how much coverage to allot to his shenanigans.
Moreover, the “Democrats did it” line just doesn’t seem to be true. Rep. John Boehner’s assertion that Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership frightened some Republicans into casting “No” votes has gained traction over the past 24 hours. But here’s MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough interviewing no-voting Arizona Republican John Shadegg this morning (h/t TPM):
SCARBOROUGH: Did you vote against this bill because your feelings were hurt by Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and members of the Democratic caucus?
SHADEGG: No I didn’t, Joe, and I don’t know a single Republican who did. It was a stupid speech by her, but it didn’t move any votes. On an issue of this importance, nobody would be moved by that.
SCARBOROUGH: Well, Boehner said it moved votes. Was Boehner wrong?
SHADEGG: Yeah. I think their feelings were hurt, it was embarrassing for leadership of both parties to lose the bill, so they went out and made a stupid claim. But I don’t know a single person who changed their vote on the basis of that, or would have.