That's what NBC's Chuck Todd said this morning, when asked what would happen in Oxford, Mississippi, if John McCain doesn't show up for the scheduled debate tonight.
And that does seem to be the Question Of The Day for the media: If McCain refuses to participate, will the networks televise a solo forum featuring Barack Obama?
In its news report about Thursday's hectic White House negotiations regarding the financial bailout, Politico reports, "And when Democrats left to caucus in the Roosevelt Room, Paulson pursued them, begging that they not "blow up" the legislation."
What Politico left out was that, according to ABC's report last night, Paulson then immediately conceded it was "both sides" that were threatening to derail the bailout.
Again, this is part of what seems to be the media's attempt to set the groundwork for the blame game by not reporting accurately what Paulson said yesterday.
Rather than relentlessly promoted themselse in the name of "buzz" and ratings.
And yes, it tarnishes Dems.
Headline at Halperin's The Page at time.com: PAULSON TO DEMS: "DON'T BLOW THIS UP".
The item links to an ABC News bulletin headlined, "Bailout Talks Go On Amid Presidential Scuffle." The report includes mention that when Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson ran into senior Democrats in the White House today during all-day negotiations he reportedly said, "Please don't blow this up."
House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., reportedly shot back, "We're not the ones trying to blow this up. It's the House Republicans."
To which Paulson replied, "I know, I know; it's both sides." [Emphasis added.]
Halperin's screaming headline makes only one point: Paulson thinks Dems, and Dems alone, will be responsible if the bailout fails. But the article itself makes perfectly clear Paulson himself does not believe that.
You remember. The one where he and Charlie Gibson spent the first 50 minutes moderating the Democratic debate while mired in policy-free gotcha. The one where the audience turned on the hosts because they were doing such an awful job. The one that was tagged by many observers as the worst effort ever. (Here, this will refresh your memory.)
Well good news. Looking back, Stephanopoulous thinks he did fine. And that the "the questions [he posed] hold up a lot more than the criticism." Plus, his boss at ABC News wasn't even mad at him! Instead, he give the Sunday news celeb an `atta boy: "You did your job and keep going."
What a relief. We were nervous the ABC News man might actually use the public flogging he suffered to learn a lesson about the nature of journalism in this campaign season.
But not George. Because he did just fine, thank you.
Will the press note the disconnect? (Politico did not.)
Rather than simply repeating John McCain's assertion that he has suspended his campaign, Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein actually did a little work to determine if that is true. His conclusion? "McCain Campaign Still Active Across The Country."
And yet MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell is still saying -- just now -- "John McCain suprised many yesterday by suspending his campaign and announcing that he was returning to Washington." O'Donnell certainly isn't unique -- she's just the person who happened to say it as I was writing this post. The major media, almost across the board, is repeating the McCain line that he has suspended his campaign.
This is really simple: John McCain has not suspended his campaign. His campaign staffers are on television, attacking Barack Obama. His ads are still running. His campaign offices are still buzzing with activity.
He. Has. Not. Suspended. His. Campaign.
Anyone who says he has simply isn't telling the truth.
Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg writes:
Voters shouldn't judge a candidate by his skin color. Maybe, but is it any more unfair than, for example, saying that because McCain and President Bush are both Republicans that a McCain administration would produce a third Bush term? No, it isn't.
First, people aren't saying that a McCain administration would produce a third Bush term because McCain and Bush are both Republicans. They're saying it because McCain voted with Bush 95 percent of the time last year - highest in the Senate - and 90 percent of the time since Bush took office. They're saying it because McCain has bragged about how much he agrees with Bush. They're saying it because McCain supports Bush's war. They're saying it because McCain supports Bush's tax cuts for the rich.
Aside from that ... seriously? Rothenberg thinks it is no more unfair to judge a candidate by his skin color than to judge him by the political party he chooses to join? Candidates presumably choose which party to join based on their assessment of which party best reflects their values and policy views. They are intentionally telling voters something about themselves by the party they choose. I assume it is obvious how that differs from skin color.
Thanks to Media Matters intern Varun Piplani for flagging Rothenberg's claim.
I guess the consensus is that McCain is making a not very smart bet with this $700B move. I'll just note that, whatever else it is, his decision to "suspend" his campaign and rush to the sort of rescue is a genuine reflection of McCain's temperament and as good an indicator as any of what kind of president he'd be: impulsive, active, involved, somewhat immune to advice.
"Active"? "Involved"? As of Tuesday, McCain still hadn't bothered to read Paulson's three-page bailout proposal. Yesterday afternoon, he claimed he was "suspending" his campaign to focus on the bailout negotions. Yet he took his time getting back to Washington to do so -- long enough that an agreement seems to have been reached without him.
That's what counts as "involved" these days?