Commentary Magazine


How Could They Resist?

We get this nugget from Politico’s Crypt about Nancy Pelosi:

The speaker did sound a partisan note, complaining that Republicans were “unpatriotic” for missing a negotiating session on Thursday after the contentious White House meeting – both sides blamed the other afterward for that no-show.

Let me get this straight. Nancy Pelosi commands a majority of the House. She, the Senate and White House largely agree on a bailout bill. She, however, won’t vote on it because she wants the cover of House Republicans. Lots of them. These would be the people she calls unpatriotic. Who could resist such charm and flattery?

Really, the Democrats have Option “A” and Option “B”. “A” is make the darn deal themselves. “B” is get the Republicans on board. “B” requires that the Democrats extend a modicum of respect and flexibility to the opposition, solicit the views of the Republicans and maybe jettison the more egregious parts of their own package. They don’t want to do any of that. Well, Madam Speaker, there is always “A.” But she doesn’t want “A.” And so it goes.

At some point Pelosi will have to choose between “A” and “B.” If it’s “B” she should stop insulting the people whose help she needs.

Meanwhile we get a look at the clear-eyed advice which McCain imparted on his House colleagues:

On Friday morning, McCain paid Boehner a follow-up visit in the leader’s large Capitol suite. They were joined by Putnam, Blunt – the GOP whip — and his chief deputy, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, who played a central role crafting the Republicans’ alternative.The presidential candidate told the assembled congressional leaders that he was initially skeptical about Paulson’s grave economic warnings, but that he became convinced after a series of briefings that the need was very real. Congress had to pass something over the weekend, McCain said. But he told the group that Peloi had a choice: She could either allow her negotiators to craft a package that Republicans would accept, or she could make it a partisan vote by attaching the plan to a must-pass stop-gap funding bill that lawmakers from both parties would be compelled to support.If she chose the latter category, McCain told the Republican leaders that they could vote against the hugely unpopular measure and he would help them make that vote a campaign issue on the trail.Before he left, he told the group that he needed to fly to Mississippi for the first presidential debate, so he wouldn’t be sticking around either way. But, he told them, “You guys need a negotiator.”

That strikes me as a bit of tough-love, cold-hard realism and personal support. Republicans can’t complain they didn’t get solid advice and a measure of personal sacrifice. McCain after all could have easily abandoned them and capitulated to the Democratic-Paulson plan with no additions or modifications. Whether he acted out of personal loyalty or because he understood that when all was said and done Option “B” would be the only way to go is unknowable.

What we do know is that only one of the presidential candidates understood the political and personal dynamic at work and the way forward. That explains why Reid and Paulson called McCain: they wanted a deal and couldn’t get there on their own.