Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Obama is Spoiling for a Debate

Obama says debate should go ahead

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — Democrat Barack Obama says that amid the current financial crisis, it's more important than ever for he and John McCain to sit down and hold a presidential debate.

Republican McCain proposed earlier Wednesday that Friday's debate be postponed while the two candidates work to deal with the nation's financial troubles. Obama said he and McCain are working on a joint statement setting out their ideas on how to solve the financial crisis. But Obama also said he believes it's important to go ahead and have the debate.

Obama said, "It's my belief that this is exactly the time when the American people need to hear from the person who, in approximately 40 days, will be responsible for dealing with this mess."

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NEW YORK (AP) — Republican presidential nominee John McCain challenged rival Barack Obama on Wednesday to suspend their heated campaign, postpone Friday's debate and work together to deal with the nation's financial troubles.

Obama did not immediately respond to his rival's surprising political move, but campaign officials said the senator is inclined to move ahead with the debate. The dueling statements came after the two senators spoke privately, each trying to portray himself as the bipartisan leader at a time of crisis.

But McCain beat Obama to the punch with the first public statement, saying the Bush administration's Wall Street bailout plan seemed headed for defeat and a bipartisan solution was urgently needed. If not, McCain said ominously, credit will dry up, people will no longer be able to buy homes, life savings will be at stake and businesses will not have enough money to pay workers.

The move was an effort by the Republican to claim leadership on an issue that has been troublesome for him at a time when his rival is moving ahead in the polls.

McCain said he would put politics aside and return to Washington Thursday to focus on the nation's financial problems after addressing former President Clinton's Global Initiative session in New York. He also canceled his planned appearance Wednesday on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" program.

McCain said he had spoken to President Bush and asked him to convene a leadership meeting in Washington that would include him and Obama.

"It has become clear that no consensus has developed to support the administration's proposal," McCain said. "I do not believe that the plan on the table will pass as it currently stands, and we are running out of time."

McCain said he has spoken to Obama about his plans and asked the Democratic presidential nominee to join him.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid issued a statement saying the debate should go on because "we need leadership, not a campaign photo op." Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., agreed that the debate should go forward and argued that McCain's return to Washington may not preserve the nonpartisan atmosphere he said is needed to find a way out of the crisis.

"He'll be bringing the presidential campaign with him to Washington," Durbin said of McCain on the Senate floor. "Bringing in all the lights and cameras to Capitol Hill, bringing the campaign here, is not going to be the answer."

The University of Mississippi said it was going forward with preparation for the debate in Oxford. "We are ready to host the debate, and we expect the debate to occur as planned," the school said, adding that it had received no notification of any change in the timing or venue.

The Obama and McCain campaign put out statements describing the timeline of private talks that led up to McCain's challenge.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement that Obama had called McCain around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday to propose that they issue a joint statement in support of a package to help fix the economy as soon as possible. Later, McCain spokesman Brain Rogers said in his own statement that although Obama called in the morning, he couldn't reach McCain and did not leave a message about what he wanted to discuss.

McCain called back six hours later and agreed to the idea of the statement, Burton said, and McCain's statement was issued to the media a few minutes later. But Rogers said it was McCain who "asked Senator Obama to join him in returning to Washington to lead a bipartisan effort to solve this problem."

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