HE WAS FOR PHONING IT IN BEFORE HE WAS AGAINST IT…. John McCain sure does pick the strangest talking points.

Campaigning in Columbus, Ohio, today, McCain boasted, “I put my campaign on hold for a couple of days last week to fight for a rescue plan that puts you and your economic security and working families first. I fought for a plan that protected taxpayers I went to Washington last week to make sure the taxpayers of Ohio and across this great country were not left footing the bill.”

He added, “You know, remarkably some people have criticized my decision to put my country first, but I’ll never be a president who sits on the sidelines when this country faces a crisis. I’ll never do that. I know many of you noticed, it’s not my style to simply phone it in…. [Fighters belong] in the arena.”

What’s odd is how easy it is to expose McCain’s claims as ridiculous. He didn’t put his campaign “on hold for a couple of days”; McCain never actually suspended his campaign at all. He didn’t “fight for a rescue plan”; McCain never actually fought for any plan at all.

McCain may not think he likes to “simply phone in it,” but when the bailout negotiations were ongoing, McCain literally phoned in it. Fighters may belong “in the arena,” but when policy makers were hammering out the details of the proposal, McCain was hanging out a fancy restaurant with Joe Lieberman.

On Thursday afternoon — ostensibly the time McCain was working on this issue for the first time — McCain “rarely came close to the Capitol suites and committee rooms where the talks were taking place.” He went to a meeting at the White House, where he proceeded to sit silently while others worked on the legislation. On late Thursday afternoon, after smiling for the cameras, McCain was back in one of his several homes by 6 p.m.

And yet, today, McCain wants Ohio voters to think he’s some kind of hero, working tirelessly to craft bailout legislation. He really does think voters are fools.

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.