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

September 24, 2008 |  5:44 pm

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?”

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