Update: Okay so this didn't happen. But if anyone from Hollywood is reading, I'm available to write this up as a screenplay, maybe Wag the Dog II.
We're all conspiracy theorists now. And here's mine: House Republicans continue to gum up the works tomorrow, but John McCain meets with them behind closed doors. Meanwhile the markets are going crazy. Business channels are predicting apocalypse if a deal isn't struck today.
The meetings drag on into the evening. The networks cover the closed doors, panels back in the studio analyze what they don't know. Then finally the door opens. McCain steps out.
He says negotiations are at a critical juncture, he has to stay and continue trying to solve this crisis, so he won't be flying down to Mississippi for the debate. Even if it means he loses the election, it's country first.
Obama finds himself alone on stage at the debate, except for Jim Lerher, who improvises a kind of moderated town hall meeting.
But just five minutes into it, the networks break in: there's word that McCain is about to come out of the meeting and announce something. For awhile it's split screen: Obama talking, the closed door in Washington, but the voice of an excited reporter.
Then the door opens, John McCain emerges with the news that he has convinced the House Republicans to support a more modest version of the plan created by the Democratic and Republican negotiators based on the Paulsen initiative. He believes a bill will result that everyone can support. The crisis is over.
Now back to Ole Miss, where Jim Lerher asks Barack Obama for his reaction to the news.
That's my conspiracy theory, and like all conspiracy theory, it has facts to back it up. The chief one is this: before the meeting McCain attended at the White House Thursday--the one that was supposed to finalize the deal that most parties had agreed to, but was sent into chaos by House Republicans who proposed a radiclaly different plan which had already been discredited, and McCain said nothing about it for the entire meeting--before that, McCain had met with House Republicans.
Later McCain announced that he was confident he could bring House Republicans around to supporting a deal. I'm sure he is confident. The fix is in. All they'll be doing behind closed doors tomorrow is playing blackjack.
It's a perfect set-up. Nobody knows why McCain suspended his campaign and wanted to cancel the debate to come to Washington, and then he was silent at the big meeting, and nobody knows where he stands. The House GOPers and their intransigence will almost certainly send the stock market tumbling dramatically on Friday. The stakes get raised.
The media was set up by talk that House GOPers hate McCain. The Obama campaign was set up by McCain saying he wouldn't go to the debate. If Obama agreed to cancel it, it would have looked like he was taking McCain's lead. When he refused to cancel it, this scenario became possible.
Of course I'm hoping this is overly imaginative, a cautionary tale. I mostly hope that somebody in the Obama campaign also has an overactive imagination, and they are prepared for this. It's the worst outcome I can think of, short of the beginning of Great Depression II.
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