John McCain blamed Barack Obama and the Democrats for Congress' failure to pass a Wall Street bailout on Monday, while Obama avoided blame games and instead implored Americans to “stay calm.”
McCain appeared before the press in Iowa about 5 p.m. and said: “Our leaders are expected to leave partisanship at the door and come to the table to solve our problems. Sen. Obama and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship in the process.”
In fact, Democrats in the House of Representatives mustered 140 votes for the compromise bailout plan drafted by lawmakers from both parties and the Bush administration, while Republicans delivered only 65 votes. Some 133 House Republicans opposed it, as did 95 Democrats.
“No one person is at fault in this crisis. There's a lot of blame to spread around,” Obama told a rally outside Denver after the vote.
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“Right now, Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed, but members have not agreed,” he said. “It's important for the American people and the markets to stay calm because things are never smooth in Congress, and to understand that it will get done. We are going to make sure that an emergency package is put together because it is required for us to stabilize the markets.”
For McCain, playing the blame game is a gamble. It could deflect attention from his own unsuccessful effort since Thursday to rally House Republicans behind the bailout. It could backfire, however, if voters don't think his criticism of Obama is credible. It also could encourage Obama and his surrogates to paint McCain as temperamental and impulsive, a tactic they're weighing.
For Obama, the political risk lies in his continuing calculations over how strongly to defend himself against attacks versus refusing to take the bait. Many of his Democratic supporters worry that he's too aloof under fire sometimes, although his calm performance in the face of McCain's jabs during their first debate last week seemed to work in Obama's favor, as polls showed him pulling ahead.
A McCain campaign event earlier Monday in Columbus, Ohio, occurred before the House vote. There, he told the crowd that he had “put my campaign on hold for a couple days last week to fight for a rescue plan that put you and your economic security first.”
He accused Obama of sitting on the sidelines for not suspending his own campaign. “I will never, ever be a president who sits on the sidelines when this country faces a crisis,” McCain said.
Obama, however, has spoken frequently by phone with congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson since the bailout talks began, and he and McCain both traveled to the White House last week at President Bush's request to discuss the bailout.