If at first you don’t succeed….

IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED…. When the crisis on Wall Street began, and the markets began tanking nine days ago, the very first message from John McCain was, “The fundamentals of our economy are strong.” That didn’t work, and McCain dropped the line.

His second message was that he wanted to see a commission investigate how and why the crisis happened. That made McCain appear confused, so he dropped that line, too.

His third message was in opposition to the AIG bailout. That didn’t last, and McCain took the opposite position 24 hours later.

His fourth message was to fire Christopher Cox from the Securities and Exchange Commission. That turned out to be ridiculous, and McCain dropped the line, too.

His fifth message was to blame lobbyists, influence peddlers, and the collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That became problematic given the lobbyists and former Fannie/Freddie officials on McCain’s payroll.

McCain has simply gone from one ridiculous notion to another, flailing around, looking desperately for something coherent to say. Now McCain has come up with yet another stunt: suspend the campaign, delay the debate, and head back to his day job for the first time since April.

It’s hard to imagine anyone being so gullible as to find McCain’s gimmick credible. Candidates who take the political process seriously don’t behave this way. Leaders don’t behave this way.

Josh Marshall had this gem: “Isn’t this the campaign equivalent of faking an injury when you’re down late in the 4th quarter?”

Why, yes. Yes it is.

As for what happens next, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said there’s already a process in place to continue negotiations, and it “would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op.”

And ABC News is reporting that as far as the Obama campaign is concerned, the debate is still on.