The Note: The Wreckage

Can you blame these guys for wanting to get out of that building?

As we watch the stock market try to whip votes in Congress in a way not even a president, two presidential candidates, and the united bipartisan, bicameral leadership could not, everyone looks bad, but some people look more bad than others.

That second list would include, say, those who have lagged when the talk has turn to the economy; those whose party's votes largely sank the bill; those who staked their campaigns to getting a workable solution through Congress; and those who celebrated the measure's passage only slightly prematurely.

Sometimes, gambles fail: "Republican John McCain has maneuvered himself into a political dead end and has five weeks to find his way out," the AP's Steven Hurst writes. "All in all, McCain might have been better served by staying out of the mess and above the fray."

Sen. Barack Obama hardly emerges as a profile in courage; aides couldn't point to a single phone call he made to an on-the-fence lawmaker, and there's the little matter of his own advance text applauding the deal that never was.

(Obama is first out of the box, though, with a new idea Tuesday -- expanding FDIC insurance to help small businesses. And President Bush -- never looking less relevant than he does at this moment -- seeks to calm the markets with 8:45 am ET remarks at the White House.)

(Plus -- the RNC fires back with a quick-out-of-the-box "independent expenditure" ad that probably doesn't make compromise any easier: "Meltdown: Wall Street squanders our money, and Washington is forced to bail them out with -- you guessed it -- our money. Under Barack Obama's plan, the government would spend a trillion dollars more, even after the bailout." A Republican official tells ABC the ad is running in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and -- here's a first for the cycle -- Indiana.)

Still, McCain had and still has more on the line -- and would be in the same situation if his only goal was shifting the debate away from the economy, rather than salvaging his political reputation at the same time.

"As a study in his prospective leadership, the role of Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, has done him no political good," Jackie Calmes writes in The New York Times. "He implicitly took credit for the compromise bailout that Congressional leaders had negotiated over the weekend, even as it was going down to defeat."

"Mr. Obama, campaigning in Colorado, also was taken by surprise," Calmes continues. "He quickly revised his speech, which announced the bipartisan agreement, to instead call for Congress to 'step up to the plate and get this done.' While Mr. Obama had tepidly endorsed the plan and kept in daily touch with Mr. Paulson and Congressional leaders, aides said he did not twist Democrats' arms to support it."

Cue the finger-pointing: "Barack Obama and John McCain seem to agree on two things about the economic crisis. One let's not blame each other," ABC's John Berman reported on "Good Morning America" Tuesday. "And two, let's blame each other."

Obama adviser Robert Gibbs says Obama will step up his pressure on rank-and-file lawmakers: "We're going to work on that more and more today," he said on "Good Morning Ameirca."

Countered McCain adviser Nicolle Wallace: "The bill failed yesterday. Maybe they don't have Internet connections or phones on their big fancy plane." (Where's that storyline been, anyway?)

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