COMMENTS: Credit Crunch Suspends McCain Candidacy

The crisis of finance capitalism has overshadowed the Presidential campaign on the news agenda for the last week and a half. At last, Republican John McCain has found a way to reclaim the headlines for his campaign. He halted it! His reason? Because of the crisis in finance capitalism! His decision to stop running for President until Congress has passed legislation to bail out the financial industry was the lead story on both ABC and CBS. CBS threw in an Exclusive interview with the no-longer candidate plus an Exclusive interview with his no-longer running mate Sarah Palin. Thus the now-suspended campaign accounted for 71% (14 min out of 19) of CBS' newshole. NBC led with continuing talks on Capitol Hill about the bailout itself as President George Bush prepared for a primetime TV address to the nation on its necessity. The substance--not the suspension--qualified as Story of the Day. NBC had Brian Williams anchor its newscast from Houston in order to catch-up on the neglected story of the destruction left by Hurricane Ike.

Concerning those negotiations on Capitol Hill over the Treasury Department's proposal for a $700bn financial bailout, NBC's Tom Costello was declarative: "It is clear the administration's initial three-page plan is not going to pass Congress. However, Democrats say that they have a 42-page plan right now." Democrats told ABC's Jake Tapper that "progress is being made" and that "they hope to have an agreement tomorrow." CBS' Bob Orr reported that those Democrats are "putting the White House and conservative Republicans on notice" that they will not pass the package alone. Hence George Bush's decision to make his primetime speech: "His address is coming not a moment too soon as opposition seems to be growing here in Congress," ABC's Tapper pointed out.

NBC and ABC both offered political analysis of the President's pending speech. NBC political director Chuck Todd cited his network's own polling that found that 28% of the population do not know enough about the bailout plan to form an opinion either for or against: "He has got to sell this thing." ABC's George Stephanopoulos opined that Bush has to convince people "that this is not something that is just going to bail out Wall Street but is really going to help every American."

NBC and ABC helped lay the groundwork for the President's pitch. CNBC economist Steve Liesman (no link) warned NBC anchor Brian Williams that if the bailout does not pass he expected activity to slow "probably bordering on a pretty severe recession" while ABC's Betsy Stark looked at the stock market and envisioned the plan's defeat: "Look out below." Her colleague Sharyn Alfonsi (embargoed link) checked out ordinary savers' 401(k) retirement accounts: "So-called hardship withdrawals are already up as much as 14% this year."


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