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John McCain cools his rhetoric on the politics of the bailout bill

September 29, 2008 |  5:37 pm

John McCain, speaking this afternoon from West Des Moines, measurably tempered the partisan edge that had marked his campaign's comments on the nation's fiscal crisis -- both by him and aides, and both before and after the House failed to pass a much-touted bailout bill.Republican presidential candidate John Mccain speaking in Iowa after the House defeated a bill aimed at fixing America's financial crisis

The Times' Seema Metha, covering the appearance in Iowa, reports that in urging Congress to put aside partisanship, McCain said, "It's time for all members of Congress to go back to the drawing broad. I call on Congress to get back, obviously, immediately to address this crisis."

Speaking from a hotel ballroom, he continued: "I would hope that all our leaders -- all of them -- can put aside short-term political goals and do what's in the best interest of the American people."

He then somewhat mixed his call for bipartisanship, taking a shot -- albeit a mild one -- at Barack Obama. He claimed that his presidential rival "and his allies in Congress infused unnecessary partisanship into the process" of finding a fix for America's fiscal mess.

Apparently referring to the Democrats, he added: "Now is not the time to fix the blame. It's time to fix the problem."

The blame game, though, had been an integral part of his campaign's posture earlier.

Stumping in Ohio before the House vote that most in the political world had assumed would end in passage of the financial rescue plan, McCain had taken Obama to task for their differing reactions to the crisis last week. McCain -- in a controversial move -- suspended his campaign to return to Washington to become an active participant in the talks on bailout legislation; Obama left the trail after President Bush invited him ...

... to a White House meeting on the matter.

Obama "took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced," McCain said this morning. "At first he didn’t want to get involved. Then he was ‘monitoring the situation.’ That’s not leadership, that’s watching from the sidelines.”

And shortly after today's House vote, while McCain was en route to Iowa, his chief domestic advisor issued a sharply worded statement attacking Obama and other leading Democrats.

McCain took no questions from reporters after his afternoon remarks. But he dispatched surrogate Rob Portman to argue that McCain's return to D.C. -- which several congressional Democrats had blasted as disruptive to the bailout negotiations -- had resulted in today's vote even being close (228 House members were against it, 205 for it).

Portman, a former House member from Ohio and high-ranking Bush administration official, just last week had begged to differ with McCain on one of the candidate's initial reactions to the financial meltdown.

-- Don Frederick

Photo credit: Associated Press

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