By the time John McCain flew into Washington today, having told David Letterman he couldn’t appear on the show, because he was flying out that night — thus prompting Letterman to a show’s worth of baiting which may well have cost McCain the campaign — the House had already cut a deal on the bailout. It wasn’t a great deal, indeed it was pretty crap, but a deal it was. His flacks tried to make it look like he’d been there all along saying that McCain had spent “most of the day in the office getting the lie of the land.” Pure lies of course, but that’s the stock in trade of the campaign these days.

The deal had been agreed upon even before McCain was wheels to the ground in DC. That of course was the last thing he needed or wanted, so he spent a couple of hours sniffing around for an alternative — a proposal by conservative Republicans for a mortgage insurance plan which doesn’t involve the government buying up four large investment institutions and trying to flog them off later.

McCain could care about which plan went ahead. He just needed something to screw the whole thing up and put the place in turmoil, so that he could look like he was coming to the rescue — and maybe as an added bonus swing into the debate tomorrow at the last minute, the hero returning.

He can do this because he knows that Obama won’t respond by attacking him directly — won’t go on TV and say “if you don’t get paid next week, blame John McCain. He screwed up a deal in place that would have guaranteed that the Wall Street crisis didn’t spread to Main Street. Those crucial 48 hours may cost us financial stability. John McCain is playing politics with your future.”

Yes, I’m writing campaign ads again. So are half the journos on this. Roland Martin was reduced to it on CNN today, saying “if he doesn’t show up I’d just turn it into a town hall meeting that’s what I’d say if I were running the campaign, but I’m not”. The same frustration we all feel at this lack of assertion, this vacuum, this wimpiness, every time McCain pulls another fast one.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was “a little stunned” when he heard talk at the White House about a completely new plan drawn up by House Republicans. – Reuters

Gee, amazing, Harry Reid was blindsided, blinking Mormon moleperson, part of the lame Democratic leadership who seem to like getting hit, again and again and again.

It was, as the saying by now goes, a helluva day. Washington Mutual (WaMu) was seized by US regulators, and is now to be purchased by JP Morgan, pretty much the last man standing. The bank had basically had a total run on it since September 15 and had been tottering before that in any case. The slogan of their still-playing ghost sh-t ads: “Woo hoo! We got you covered!” You were, but their arse was hanging out.

Rumpled congressman Barney Frank was at least coming out fighting saying that McCain had flown in and wrecked the deal, comparing it to Nixon wrecking the peace talks in ’68, and kudos to him for that, but Frank is an amiable owlish figure with a lisp and it doesn’t really have the force.

The B theory of McCain trying to delay the debate has been because he wants to knock out the VP debate — have it replaced by the first Presidential debate. As more snippets of Katie Couric’s Palin interview appeared — her rambling answer to the question “Why does being near Russia count as foreign policy experience?” is just deliciously excruciating — you can see why. I reckon team McCain is genuinely worried that she will fall apart completely on stage. Though she did answer four questions shouted over the jetwash today.

By the time all this was being digested, and a lot of this is still going on, with no-one really having a clue where things are at, came news that Pakistani troops had fired on American troops and planes trying to cross the border from Afghanistan.

Man oh man, what is needed now is the killing blow. Choose one, Obama:

a) John McCain is acting politically and tactically and putting the economy of this country at risk

b) I respect John’s sincerity, but these manoeuvres show poor executive judgment, just as we’re trying to work together here

c) To be frank I’m a little worried about John. I really don’t think he’s thinking very clearly on this and that is cause for concern.

Pick one Barack, any one. Sheet it home for goddsake.