Mark Salter, the McCain adviser and speechwriter, has a piece today over at The Daily Beast that serves as a defense of the senator's honor. He makes some useful points, and I respect his loyalty to a man with some clearly heroic qualities. But this particular passage struck me as a little too convenient:
No doubt, we made our share of mistakes. In hindsight, the decision to briefly suspend our campaign to help find support for legislation to address the collapse of the global credit system is probably one of them. But the criticism that it was nothing but a stunt that failed is mistaken. The morning of the announcement, senior economic advisors to the campaign impressed on the candidate that failure to pass some rescue package would lead to a disaster of monumental proportions. We were also aware that support for the legislation among House Republicans was virtually non-existent.
He and his senior staff believed he had three options. The most politically appealing was to remain quiet, and then weigh in against the legislation as it was put to a vote, which would have put him on the side of about seventy percent of voters. The second was to offer a vague appeal for improvements to the bill and then keep his distance, mindful that it would probably fail because of House Republican opposition. The third was to become personally involved in finding a compromise that could pass with Republican support and try to convince Senator Obama to join us. He chose the third course, and all his senior staff agreed with him. And while it turned out to be politically costly, I don’t think it was anything less than the responsible decision. Nor do I think it proved to be a fatal injury to his campaign. The financial crisis he was responding to had already very likely made the steep hill he was climbing insurmountable.
But if McCain were really serious about the third course, why announce he was suspending his campaign, then stick around New York for a media appearance and a speech the following morning? It seems like someone really committed to personally negotiating a compromise would have basically done the opposite: not make some public show of suspending the campaign, which is why people thought it was a stunt, while returning to Washington immediately.