MCCAIN’S DEBATE DEBACLE…. For reasons that defy logic, John McCain had put himself in quite a box. He “suspended” (but not really) his presidential campaign, and vowed to skip the first presidential debate unless Congress and the Bush administration reached a deal on a Wall Street bailout. Indeed, McCain gave his word — no deal, no debate.

By late yesterday, that put McCain in a very awkward position. Obama said he was headed to Mississippi, whether McCain was prepared to show up or not. The likelihood of a deal all but vanished, because McCain had torpedoed negotiations. McCain could break his word, and look like a fool, or keep his word, and look like a coward.

In a statement released this morning, McCain chose the prior.

Senator McCain has spent the morning talking to members of the Administration, members of the Senate, and members of the House. He is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations, including Representative Blunt as a designated negotiator for House Republicans. The McCain campaign is resuming all activities and the Senator will travel to the debate this afternoon. Following the debate, he will return to Washington to ensure that all voices and interests are represented in the final agreement, especially those of taxpayers and homeowners.

In other words, the campaign “suspension” — which had never actually started — has now ended, and the debate is on. In perhaps the single most unintentionally hilarious line of the entire campaign, McCain’s statement added, “The difference between Barack Obama and John McCain was apparent during the White House meeting yesterday where Barack Obama’s priority was political posturing.” Seriously. The campaign actually said that.

But more importantly, this entire scheme has turned into quite a debacle. McCain’s statement justifies his decision to break his word by insisting that there’s been “significant progress.” In our reality, there was “significant progress” on Wednesday and Thursday morning — progress that vanished after McCain started screwing things up.

McCain needed a principled reason to go back on his promise, but he apparently couldn’t come up with one. Things got tough, McCain panicked (again), and when push came to shove, he blinked.

It’d be amusing if it weren’t so absurd.

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.