This economic bailout mess on Capitol Hill has dangerous pitfalls for both Obama and McCain. Now that Pelosi and the Democrats have squared off against Boehner and the Republicans, this bailout bill has turned into a bickering partisan feud. What a shock that something like that would happen on Capitol Hill.
For Obama and McCain and their campaigns, the tendency will be to join the fray and take sides. It is what politicians do instinctively. But the American people are clearly looking for a bi-partisan solution here and so how Obama and McCain handle themselves during this crisis will be critical in how voters see them. Will they see a partisan hack or someone who is really trying to put the politics aside?
Already McCain himself and one of his economic advisors has blamed Obama (at least in part) for this mess. If he keeps it up he runs the risk of looking so partisan that it can take away from his bi-partisan maverick image. Obama, on the other hand, will need to figure out whether he ignores the criticism or gives it right back to McCain. If he starts criticizing McCain on the bailout bill then he risks looking like just another partisan politician. Remember, he has cast himself as a different, unifying figure. If he doesn't criticize McCain, he runs the risk of getting saddled with the perception that he was part of the problem. What will he do?
As for McCain, he suspended his campaign last week because of the impending crisis. Now the crisis is even worse but he's not suspending his campaign. Wouldn't this be an even more important time to stand down and work a solution? It will give his detractors some amunition.
On a seperate note, you can make the case that President Bush is to blame for this mess. Look, let's face it. Conservative House Republicans have NOT been happy for years with this administration's spending habits. They believe the government has grown too big and they've taken flack over it from their constituents. That's a big part of this. In addition, after Iraq and the whole weapons of mass destruction situation, the administration's credibility is a tad bit suspect even with conservatives.