Politics: Bailout Battle, Presidential Debate

Can lawmakers get together on a giant bailout of the financial system? What will Barack Obama and John McCain really focus on at Friday night's debate? It's supposed to be about foreign policy, but is likely to touch on the economy, too.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

It's Day to Day. I'm Alex Chadwick.

ALEX COHEN, host:

I'm Alex Cohen. Coming up, the view from over there. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair on the Middle East, the U.S. economy and presidential politics.

CHADWICK: Oh boy, there is so much going on. NPR News analyst Juan Williams joins us again. Hello, Juan. Hello, Juan Williams. Oh boy. Juan Williams has gone away or...

JUAN WILLIAMS: Hi, Alex.

CHADWICK: Hey, there you are. Hi, Juan.

WILLIAMS: Hi. Hi.

CHADWICK: Welcome back to the show. So, I'm just saying there's so much going on. We're going to hear from Tony Blair in a few moments, but we'd like to hear from you about what you are hearing about the on and off again presidential debates and this involvement in Washington, the Republicans, the Democrats, the White House, the fiscal blowup. Where are things?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's kind of, literally, when you say blowup, it's up in the air because the House Republicans are trying to get back together and trying to get their own plan in place. But it's a plan that their own Republican White House is not buying into. Meanwhile, Senator McCain of course is now about to make his way to Mississippi for the debate and the reason that he had - technically is he just suspended his campaign, at least come to Washington, was to try to get his Republicans on board. But- and the question is, how much influence does he have with House Republicans at this point, and so he feels as if he's made his point and can go on to the debate.

CHADWICK: He is going to this debate, his campaign said that. I wonder, is he with these White House- with these House Republican, we'll call them rejectionists, the people are saying, no, we're not going to get on with this deal that the Democrats and the White House seem to have reached. Where's Senator McCain on that?

WILLIAMS: Well, Senator McCain's with the White House. And if you want an irony in this, so is Senator Obama. They both want this $700 billion bailout deal, some protections for the taxpayer, and some concessions in terms of protections, in the way people who have outstanding mortgages or on the verge of foreclosure. But - and of course, they're all up against high-level executive pay. But if the House Republicans who remain sort of the odd man out and without that, can't get a deal and so, Senator McCain is vulnerable on this point to having it said that Republicans are the ones who were standing in the way of any resolution that would get the American economy back on track.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you about another fascinating political figure. Governor Palin goes to the U.N. this week, meets foreign leaders and sits down for her third interview since her nomination as Republican vice president. Here she is, last night on CBS with Katie Couric.

Governor SARAH PALIN (Republican, Alaska, Vice Presidential Nominee): When you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America, where do they go, it's Alaska, it's just right over the border.

CHADWICK: Juan, are Republicans getting worried? Have you heard this today that this does not seem like someone who is ready to be president.

WILLIAMS: It there was an embarrassment, there's no way to get around it, Alex and Republicans are saying, it was an embarrassment that she should have been ready for that question because everyone knows there was a great deal of question when she had said earlier that her foreign policy resume was based on having been governor of a state where- if you can look out and see Russia and all the rest, and she stammered and stuttered and never quite came to a point- Katie Couric asked her if she ever done a deal- any kind of, you know, agreement with Russia, any kind of marketing deal, she couldn't name it.

And then, subsequently, couldn't name any achievement of John McCain in the Congress and it really - I think lots of people thought, you know, this was going to be a week in which she was with world leaders. It was going to improve her standing. She was getting ready to be more accessible to the press, but it turns out that even in meeting with world leaders, she didn't so much discuss issues as family and then they held her away from the press for fear that she might say the wrong thing. Not a good week for Sarah Palin.

CHADWICK: Let me ask you this, Juan, with your decades of experience observing Washington, mine too as well, isn't it weird to have such big things so uncertain at the last moment and not really know where we're going at this point?

WILLIAMS: Well, it's sort of one of these moments where everyone has never been here before and typically, if there's things like, you know, the threat of a government shutdown over the budget, everybody knows that dance. And so everybody kind of has a sense of where it's going and who's able to vote or not vote so they can go home and tell their constituents they took the right position...

CHADWICK: Yeah.

WILLIAMS: But for other people who make sacrifices- in this dance, there is no such clear path and, what's happen now is you have these cross the lines as we've talked about before between people like Pelosi and the president, and it just makes for high anxiety and short tempers in Washington. No one knows where this is going.

CHADWICK: NPR News analyst Juan Williams. Juan, thank you, weekend.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Alex.

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