(JEFFERSONVILLE, IND.) - Within an hour of John McCain's announcement that he was suspending campaigning and asked for a postponement of this Friday's presidential debate, Barack Obama and Joe Biden were working to explain the curious chain of events that led from a private request for a joint announcement on the economy to an invitation for Obama to play follow the leader and tagalong with McCain in returning to Washington to work on economic woes.
CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic reports that Obama was noticeably cool and calm today in Clearwater, Fla., when he addressed questions from the media about McCain's announcement. By all indications, Obama was surprised by McCain's sudden decision which was made only ten minutes after the presidential candidates had spoken on the telephone.
At approximately 2:30pm ET, McCain had returned Obama's telephone call to discuss the possibility of issuing a joint statement of unity regarding Wall Street's financial woes. Obama said that McCain had agreed to the statement, but that he has also suggested that they suspend the presidential debate.
"What I suggested to him was, 'Well, why don't we get the joint statement out first and our staffs will discuss this?'" Obama explained adding, "I think the only -- the only possible miscommunication might have been how quickly there was announcement and somebody was on television. I think probably my assumption was, was that the joint statement would go out initially."
Obama added, "With respect to the debates, it's my believe that this is exactly the time the American people need to hear from the person who in approximately forty days will be responsible for dealing with this mess and I think that it is going to be part of the presidents job to deal with more than one thing at once. And I think there's no reason why we can't be constructive in helping to solve this problem and also tell the American people what we believe and where we stand."
Meantime, here in Indiana, Biden gave his version of the phone conversation and said McCain agreed with Obama's suggestions about the economy.
"Ladies and gentlemen, notwithstanding the fact we have fundamental differences with John McCain, Barack Obama, who really is an agent of change, Barack Obama this morning reached out to John McCain. And he held a -- reason I was a few minutes late coming out here - Barack was holding a press conference for the whole world to see, where he was pointing out, he reached out to John McCain and he invited Senator McCain to join him in joining on four major components of what any, any rescue plan should have," said Biden.
"He said first, and they agreed, first -- oversight and accountability for how this money, no matter how much money it is -- your money, not somebody else's money, your money - oversight in how it's going to be spent. We want [an] independent board to provide accountability for how this money's spent every step of the way. John McCain agreed. Secondly, if the American taxpayers are financing, financing this solution, they should be treated like investors. And that means if Wall Street makes money, every single penny comes back to the American taxpayer. Every single penny. Third, they agreed on a third point. We cannot and we will not simply bail out Wall Street without helping the millions and millions of innocent homeowners who are struggling to stay in their homes. They deserve a plan that works for them, too. And finally, and finally they agreed that the American people should not be spending one dime, not one thin dime to reward the CEOs on Wall Street," said Biden.
Biden's took the high road on the situation, saying, "Talk about reaching across the aisle -- how many other nominees would pick up the phone in a tightly contested race and call the opponent and say, this is too important for America. We should stand together and we should agree," said Biden of Obama, putting a happy face on a development.
"That's the guy you are going to elect president of the United States of America!"
He did not give any assessment of the announcement McCain ultimately made.
When asked if the campaign senses some insidiousness on McCain's part, an Obama campaign official said "it's going to be up to the Americans to decide if this was insidious or not. Seems calculated."
The official also added that McCain had a meeting with a former Hillary supporter this morning, yet did not return Obama's call until around six hours later. "So you know he was busy," the official said sarcastically.