"With no House vote scheduled until Thursday, McCain still has time to do the right thing.
"He should publicly announce his support for the House Republican alternative package of insurance, loans and tax changes to deal with the financial crisis. He should attack Barack Obama and the Democrats for supporting the use of tax money for a massive bailout when the same purpose can be accomplished by other, cheaper means. McCain should draw a line in the sand and take a firm position.
"The Democrats are not prepared to pass their bailout proposal by themselves. If they were, they would have done so on Monday. Instead, they withheld the votes of their most vulnerable congressmen and let the package fail. If the Republican Party poses a united front in the House, with McCain's leadership, the Democrats will have to fall in line. They cannot not do anything. By taking a firm line, McCain can turn the whole process around to his — and his country's — advantage.
"By backing an alternative, McCain forces Obama to defend the Democratic/Bush package. He can tie Obama to Bush and to the Washington insider/Wall Street crowd. He can give his populism a programmatic reality and a topical relevance. Obama would have to spend the rest of the election defending the $700 billion turkey the length and breadth of the country.
"America detests the bailout package. Polls show better than 2-to-1 opposition. Were McCain and the Republicans able to project that there is another alternative that works, the opposition would swell to even greater proportions.
"Obama and the Democrats could cite the views of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Wall Street executives that the Republican relief package would be too little, too late. But voters can be pardoned for skepticism. Paulson, a few years removed from Wall Street, and Democrats, in hock to the street for campaign contributions, are naturally eager to get their hands on $700 billion. If Obama lends himself to that cause, it could cost him the election.
"McCain needs to have the courage to free himself from the web of Washington deals and take a principled stand for the right side and stay there. Then the inevitable dynamics of the process will bring the country around to him. Otherwise, his campaign will have missed the opportunity to draw the kind of clear issue that would have gotten him elected president.
I"t is admirable to see a candidate of principle and conviction lose an election by standing on his beliefs. It is sickening to see one lose by abandoning them."