WHAT KIND OF GAME IS MCCAIN PLAYING?…. Last night, Barack Obama and John McCain issued a joint statement that didn’t say much. The two agreed that this is a time to “rise above politics for the good of the country,” adding that we “cannot risk an economic catastrophe,” but the statement avoided any policy details.

Well, at least the joint statement did. While the McCain campaign distributed the statement as it was written, the Obama campaign included an appendage, explaining that it reflected only Obama’s thinking, and outlining a series of principles that he’d hoped both sides could endorse. It included a now-predictable list: oversight, a path for taxpayers to recover their money, a mechanism to prevent Wall Street executives from profiting from taxpayer funds, foreclosure protections, and a ban on earmarks in the bill.

Here’s the odd part: John McCain had said, as recently as Tuesday, that these are the exact same principles he wants to see included in any bailout package. On these points, McCain and Obama are on the same page. So why not say so in the joint statement?

Marc Ambinder reports that the McCain campaign “did not want to include them.”

That does seem odd, doesn’t it? On Tuesday, McCain publicly articulates five principles he wants to see in the package. On Wednesday, the Obama campaign asks McCain to endorse those exact same principles in a public statement, but the McCain campaign balks. Taegan Goddard considered the context:

Interestingly, when President Bush addressed the nation just minutes later, he essentially agreed to the exact same set of principles in his own speech. So the question is: Why wouldn’t McCain agree to a fairly innocuous, Mom and apple pie set of conditions for a bill?

Democrats fear this morning that McCain is setting up a scenario in which he will vote against the bill, rally conservatives to his side and, most importantly, distance himself from both President Bush and Congress before the election.

Kevin added, “[W]hy would Democrats be so suspicious that they’re about to be double crossed? John McCain is too honorable a man to do that, isn’t he?”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.