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John McCain bails on David Letterman, and the host is not happy

Hours after John McCain announced he was suspending his campaign to focus on fixing the nation's ailing economy, he pulled out of his scheduled appearance on the "The Late Show with David Letterman."

As our colleague Matea Gold reports on the Show Tracker blog, Letterman told the audience during the taping of Wednesday's show that McCain had called him personally to apologize for bailing. According to Letterman, McCain said he couldn't appear because he was rushing to the airport to get back to Washington.

But midway through the broadcast, Letterman appeared to learn that the Arizona senator was actually still in New York. In fact, McCain was just a few blocks away, at the CBS News headquarters. He was preparing for a last-minute exclusive interview with Katie Couric.

Incredulous, Letterman interrupted his interview with Keith Olbermann (who had filled in as a substitute guest for McCain) to show the audience a live shot on the internal CBS News feed of a makeup artist putting the finishing touches on McCain while he waited to talk to Couric.

“He doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?” Letterman said, shouting at the television monitor: “Hey, John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?”

The senator and the comedian have always had a friendly rapport. If McCain had appeared as planned on Wednesday, it would have been his 13th appearance on Letterman’s show. It was the venue where he announced his White House bid in 2007.

Letterman began his broadcast praising McCain, calling him “an honest-to-God hero." But then he turned critical, questioning McCain's decision to halt his campaign.

“I’m more than a little disappointed by this behavior,” he said. “ 'We’re suspending the campaign.' Suspending it because there’s an economic crisis, or because the poll numbers are sliding?”

“You don’t suspend your campaign,” Letterman went on. “Do you suspend your campaign? No, because that makes me think, well, you know, maybe there will be other things down the road –- if he’s in the White House, he might just suspend being president. I mean, we've got a guy like that now!”

Letterman later said today's events were an indication "that something is going haywire with the campaign."

We have a video excerpt on the jump; just click the Read More line.

--Kate Linthicum

The Top Ten Questions People are Asking The John McCain Campaign

#10 “I just contributed to your campaign – how do I get a refund?"

#9 “It’s Sarah Palin –- does this mean I’m pars’dent?”

#8 “Can’t you solve this by selling some of your houses?”

#7 “This is Clay Aiken. Is McCain single?”

#6 “Do you still think the fundamentals of our economy are strong, Genius?”

#5 “Are you doing all of this just to get out of going on Letterman?”

#4 “What would Matlock do?”

#3 “Hillary here –- my schedule is free Friday night.”

It’ll be interesting here to see if Barack Obama feels the need to suspend his campaign to go down there and work on the economy.  He’s also a senator.  And his running mate, Joe Biden, he’s also a senator.  So there, those two guys have to get back to work.  So, of course, they’ll suspend their campaign.  Don’t you think? 

The Democrats are now at a real disadvantage because Barack Obama has got to race back and fix the economy.  So does Joe Biden.  He has to race back and fix the economy. But the Republicans have Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska.  The Alaska economy is fine.  It don’t need fixing.  It’s fine.  So she’ll continue the campaign.  So the Democrats are really in a hole now.

#2 “Is this just an excuse to catch up on napping?”

#1 “This is President Bush –- what’s all this trouble with the economy?”

Comments () | Archives (103)

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OK Repugnants, David Letterman is unamerican because....

Seriously give some thought to therapy. You should be able to get group rates. You need to figure out what makes you seek out the clueless to lead you.

Thank you for this post.

McCain claims he works "across the aisle" and yet it was Barack Obama who called McCain in the spirit of working together at 8:30 a.m. today. regarding making a joint statement about the bailout proposal and the economy. Then, Barack and John talked again at 2:30 p.m. followed by John going public with this PUBLIC SHOW for an image to show his leadership ability. It would have been more in the spirit to work together and reach out to Barack in private to build a bridge. Going on public television to make this move was for John's sake, not the country's sake. Putting "Country First"? Or political gaming? John McCain made an attempt to make Barack look like he didn't care about the country if Barack didn't take his pressure to postpone the debate for Friday. This was a candidate being underhanded. A simple phone call to Barack Obama would have been what a true leader would have done - not make such an announcement publicly. It's either underhanded or poor judgment on McCain's part.

The humor of Letterman will probably drive home McCain's antics more than my rational above.

McCain graduated fifth from the bottom of his college class. Are we seeing evidence as to why or is this just a character issue?

I remember when Letterman used to be funny. Now he's just an aging jerk.

Letterman thinks he is more important then he is. Frankly I have quit watching him. I find him boring and I can't tell the difference from a new show and a rerun anymore.

(Of course, if you've quit watching him, new or rerun wouldn't be an issue.)

"I'd rather lose and election than lose a debate."

-- John McCain, Sept. 24, 2008

If Letterman used to be funny, and you can't tell new and reruns apart, isn't that a good thing?

> I remember when [he] used to be funny. Now he's just an aging jerk.

It's just as well you didn't word your comment this way. I wouldn't have known who you were talking about.

I think Letterman has a right to be mad after being lied to by McCain about missing his show. At least Obama had the honesty to tell the truth when he bowed out of SNL.

I used to think the McCain was one of the few republican candidates with some integrity, but not now. I've seen him roll-over and flip on many issues for which he used to stand. He can't even find a steady position on the "changed" version of McCain, filpping on some issues within the same day.

In short order after the Republican convention, his campaign has been engaging in outright lies and misleading ads as opposed to engaging honestly an clearly on the issues. At worst he's lost all integrity at this point, and a best he's lost all control of his campaign. And if he can't even hold his campaign together, how do we expect him to be able to hold a presidential administration together.

McCain's a weasel.

This is just another RANT by Letterman.

I know McCain shouldn't have done what he did, but boy what a Cry Baby? (Are we 2 years old still?)

Grow up Letterman.

Heck I'd rather interview with Couric also, who can blame him for that Laugh.

And I also agree with others Letterman "Used" to be funny, after his surgery he became the horney dude that hit on EVERY woman on his show. and then after he knocked a girl up, he's just become a bitter old dude... Not funny at all... They should call it the "Late Night with a Grumpy old dude" Now... Sorry David Stop Crying and retire already.

"Gail" & "Dan",
If you disagree w/ letterman, give us a reason why. . . Instead of insults, give us reasons.
---This goes for you too "republican folly".

In my opinion McCain seems to try to pass tricks and play games on us. I'm proud to see Obama stay cool, rational and unruffled. We need these debates more than ever.

Go Obama!

Letterman is an Idiot...everybody knows that!

Letterman's lines were hillarious he totally shredded Mccain into pieces then again did he need tobe Mccain was already stumbling all over today.

GAME OVER for Mccain.

Who gives a rat's wheeze what Letterman thinks. He and his show have been dog food for years.

It's nice to hear Letterman actually give an opinion about McCain, rather than just letting him do what he wants like most of the rest of the media.
The fact that he wants to cancel the debate is enough to make one wonder what's going on.

Please sing this petition- the debate needs to go on!

Subject: Tell McCain and Obama: We need a real debate on the economy.

Dear Friend,

John McCain thinks we don't need a presidential debate on Friday night. We disagree. We need a real debate on the economy, and we need it now. The presidential candidates should hold their debate Friday as scheduled, and address the proposed $700 billion Wall Street bailout.

We've been hearing a lot this week about how our economy is in a crisis - maybe the worst crisis since the Great Depression. Politicians on the left and the right have made all kinds of claims about exactly how much or little we should panic and what that means for the policies we should enact.

We reject the notion that canceling the debate is the best way to focus on the economy. We have a monumental decision to make this November, and we deserve a robust conversation on the defining issues of our time.

I just signed a petition calling on Senators McCain and Obama to debate economic issues this Friday -- I hope you will too.

Please have a look and take action.

http://act. credoaction. com/campaign/economic_debate/?r_by=-1855468-OHuYDex&rc=paste


Why can't people disagree without insulting each oother?

What happened to entertainers entertaining us? I've always enjoyed Letterman for his wit and comedic style. I enjoy political 'comedy', but now these people, like Letterman are using their exposure to espouse their views and try to influence their audiences. If I want to hear this diatribe I'll watch Olberman or O'Reilley.
Get over it Dave!!

What a joke. Letterman is a whiner.

I just don't know how he thought he could get away w/ this lie. And if he'll lie, how can he be trusted as a politician (I know... they aaaaaaall lie!).

letterman is praising mccain as a war hero. but just because he's a war hero doesn't mean he'll make a good president. letterman is correct. if mccain bails on the debate, what else will he bail on. mccain's a nut and a loose cannon. i would never want someone like that as my president. letterman is entirely correct. mccain did bailed for political purposes only and it stinks.

The owners of McCain are calling him back to Washington DC because they require his influence in their scheme to stab America in the back. McCain has experience in bailing out greedy bankers; remember Charles Keating in the Savings and Loan debacle. McCain was there to peddle his influence and use taxpayer money to bail the bank. Now, he wants to bailout the wealthiest 1% of 1% of the world's people using our taxpayer money. What can be more important than that? Go ask McCain.

The negotiations aimed at relieving this very real economic crisis are the responsibility of the President, the Secretary of the Treasury, Congressional leaders, and the heads of the Congressional finance committees. John McCain holds none of these offices; indeed, he has declared on multiple occasions that he is not an expert in economic matters, so just why is he rushing off and trying to insinuate himself where he clearly does not belong. Nobody asked him to do this. He is taking a very real risk that his antics will actually stall any action whatsoever. We are getting a snapshot view of good ole Shoot From the Hipster McCain in action.

Letterman wouldn't have done this if his boy Barack had cancelled.

Hey, ilovemylife, you left out that Dick Lugar called the democratic campaign on behalf of McCain before any dems made calls to the repubs. I'm a Democrat for McCain, and this is the reason. He is a leader, barak is a poser!

I've been around longer than most of you contributers. I don't remember a major candidate backing out of scheduled events hours before these events were supposed to be aired. It concerns me about the nature of the message being sent by the candidate McCain concerning his basic character and his ability to stay on the saddle of a bucking horse of state. Let us make sure McCain never gets in the saddle!!

McCain couldn't tell the truth to save his life. What a moron. Just what we need, another lying idiot in the whitehouse.

JimDC, if you enjoy political comedy, do you only enjoy pro-Republican? give an example of something in that vein that you DO enjoy. Oh wait, there isn't any political comedy aimed at Democrats, it's all the type of vitriol we see on O'Reilly

McCain/Palin 08

Five hour a week of Letterman is better than a random five hours of CBS Primetime!!

who cares what typical Mcain backers say? they are going to take the low info road anyway.
There is no humor in dishonest, bigoted, power-mad, war mongering right wingnuts anyway.Newsflash:
These jerks and there ilk are the bonanza of jokes material especially since they have proven to be the bozo's we already knew they were; taking this country down the toilet.

Lettermans Show are For The Most Part Boring! Always Same Crap He has done since Johnny Carson Days! NOT FUNNY!


It comes down to integrity. Senator McCain told Mr. Letterman that he had to fly to Washington D.C. immediately and Mr. letterman accepted that. Several hours later, it was revealed through CBS that Senator McCain was still in New York and was getting make-up for his appearance with Katie Couric. Apparently, the Senator did NOT have to get to D.C. right away, but he wanted to appear on another show at the same time. He LIED to Mr. Letterman. If he had just told Letterman that he wanted to change his appearance to the CBS Evening News, Letterman probably would have accepted that, however, he was lied to. How do you expect a man to react to being lied to? John McCain may have been an American hero many years ago, but he has changed.

Two words: "Keating Five". That's why we're in the spot we're in now.

JimDC: It wouldn't have been a political diatribe had McCain not canceled at the last minute and lied about why. I don't think Letterman was trying to "influence his audence" so much as he was just pissed off about being snubbed and lied to. His show may not be important to you, you may not even like it, but it important to him and it is unfortunate that McCain saw fit to shaft him.

All those people bashing Letterman and calling his show junk must really despise John McCain's ideas, seeing as he (as the article points out) announced his bid for the presidency on The Late Show.

Dave has every right to be mad.
So does America.
Palin won't/can't/refuses to talk to the press.
Now McCain's MIA.

Wow, just follow your marching orders Republicans, vote for your new glorious leader and don't dare ask any questions or expect them to be accountable in any way.

That would be un-American!

I thank God my depression era parents (one a Republican the other a Democrat) are no longer alive to see this mess. They would both be disgusted.

Vote for the smartest guy in the election.
Vote for the youngest guy in the election.
Vote for the guy who does not own 13 cars.
Vote for the guy who does not own 9 houses (give or take a few).
Vote for the guy who earned his way through life, who didn't have it given to him by his father the Admiral or his heiress wife.

The McCain's are LAUGHING at you for believing in them.
They are the elites, they know it and the love that you think they are not.

You want to fight abortion? Vote Obama, help turn this country around economically so a single woman can afford to HAVE her baby. Poor people have a lot less options in life.

Trillions for a war of choice and now, just a few months before he's out of office we've got to give away 700 BILLION dollars...right time to think...fate of the world is in the balance...bullshit.
Bush has a gun to our heads and he's gonna scare us until we pony up. Wake up America.

Letterman just proved more of his irrelevance and his pettiness. Claiming that "McCain's campaign is going downhill", just because he chose to go on a serious news interview instead of a lame, outdated comedy show? As for picking Comrade Olbermann as a replacement, that just shows the media's and Letteman's true colors. You used to make fun of Oprah, Dave! Now you sound JUST like her!

I don't think this puts Democrats "in a hole" at all. On the contrary, Obama's response that a President should be able to handle more than one thing at a time is a pretty good point. Also, when it comes out that Obama called McCain first thing in the morning to talk about a joint statement and then McCain tries to act like he's the righteous leader HOURS LATER is disgusting.

So McCain can't multi-task. So what?

Blistering. Dave smelled a rat right from the start. The show was at the half hour mark by the time Dave found out the truth about McCain dumping him for an appearance with Katie Couric. (3-4 hours or so after the campaign had been "suspended".) And these are guys with a good history that includes past comedy bits and McCain even announcing his run for the presidency on Dave's show. But Dave nailed it on the head - where's the second string quartback? She might not have circling the block, but she was circling around Manhattan and could easily have stepped in. Everything is wrong with McCain and his campaign and that was encapsulated by the video of McCain getting his nose powdered while Dave yells "John, need a ride to the airport?"

From where I am I can easily be in 3 other states in less than 2 hours. I saw McCain and Obama in 3 different states. Obama was consistent. McCain was like listening to 3 different people. On a given subject, lets call it BLANK for example, you can fill in you own BLANK.

McCain would be in Michigan saying that BLANK was a top priority and he highly support BLANK. In Indiana he'd be saying BLANK is a non issue, that there are far more important things. Bet it is whatever that community is most worried about. Then in Illinois, Blank again is top priority, but he is very much against BLANK now.

As I said, fill in the BLANK. He is playing all, bottom and often left and right sides.

Letterman is right about McCain, but I'd not give him much credit for his Vietnam time. My two brothers and brother-in-law were there in the second part of the 60's and in to the 70's. Two had heard of McCain, but as being the, "Vietnam Songbird." Google that. They hated him before most people knew who he was.

Obviously the republicans on here know that it's all over for McCain. That's why they are resorting to name calling and making stuff up, they have nothing left to run on except lies and smears. McCain can't even trust Palin to carry the campaign that's why he has to suspend it.

Letterman brings up a good point? Wheres your second string? Why cant she handle the business?

After hearing the Presidents speech, i do believe there is good reason to suspend the campaign on both sides. (for the time being)
However I think one of the real points Dave was making has not been commented on, and that is the lack of competence and qualifications the Rep Vice President nominee has.

Dave, the best days are somewhat behind you, but you and paul still can get a good laugh with the wit needed to keep it real.

Letterman went over broad this time on his dialog. And to make a whole show over McCain's not showing up......Guess letterman thinks he's so big & important , even more important than the country. And that Keith Olbermann.......what a low life. They sure made a pair!

I kept going back & forth, changing channels, and would come back to find them both going on & on,being supid! Why don't you just put up an obama backdrop in your studio/network!

Wait a minute... McCain suspended his campaign! Doublecrossed Obama! LIED -- which of course he never does -- AND WAS CAUGHT DOING IT ON NATIONAL TV! And I saw the interview... he ditched Letterman to play SOFTBALL with his new BFF and enabler, Katie Couric.

Look, McCainiacs, I appreciate your loyalty to Johnny Mac, but you guys just look ridiculous now. Insulting David Letterman and Democrats does not make your guy look any better -- and after today, it is quite clear that his judgment is SORELY lacking. People of integrity don't do what John McCain did today, and David Letterman at the very least deserved the truth. Lie, and you better expect it will become a political issue when you go on about the importance of integrity. Well, McCain's integrity seems to have left the building, and his judgment... nonexistent. John McCain. Not ready to lead. Unfit to lead. And probably suffering from PTSD. Whatever crap McCain gets over this, he has earned. It's HIS fault.

My guess is a lot of the critiques here are by people who didn't even watch. Dave was hysterical, and in usual 'angry Dave' style just kept hammering, so when the live feed of McCain a couple blocks away having make-up put on came up it was a total hoot. Plus, to anyone who considers the 'serious' side to Letterman's comments, you'd be hard pressed to argue... Why suspend the campaign? Why not send Palin in his stead, or at least have her continue to campaign. This whole 'the crisis must be solved this second' is just the usual scare tactics this administration has continued to foist upon America, and we've obviously NOT benefited from these quick rushes to judgment in the past, have we? NO.

One of he requirements for becoming President of the United States is to be able to multitask. Looks like McCain can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

I don't care how bad things get...I'm never cancelling on Dave...never.

McCain backs out of a commitment and then lies about it, Letterman had ever right to be mad. He was lied to and put in a tough situation by John McCoward.

Actually, John LoGiudice, it's pretty clear that Dave saying "McCain's campaign is going downhill" was in reference to McCain suspending his campaign, and not in reference to him being a no-show. If you need proof there's the video.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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