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Law Bloggers Opine on McCain's Proposal to Postpone the Debate

Though McCain's recent proposal to suspend his campaign and postpone Friday's presidential debate so he can focus on working out the details of the financial bailout in Washington is more of a political than a legal event, law bloggers are nonetheless taking sides on McCain's decision and Obama's response. Here's a sampling of what the legal blogosphere has to say.

• Whose Approach is Right - McCain's or Obama's? Law bloggers are split fairly evenly over whether McCain's decision to suspend the debate is an admirable and sensible approach, or a political ploy. Siding with McCain are Hugh Hewitt of Town Hall, who views McCain's proposal as "an example of great leadership" and sees Obama's refusal to go along as his "Katrina moment." Mike Cernovich of Crime & Federalism views McCain's approach as "audacious," likely leaving Obama's staff with a sinking "why didn't we think of it first" feeling. 

On the other end of the spectrum, Al Nye, The Lawyer Guy says McCain's campaign suspension is "politics, pure and simple." Ann Althouse seems to be of mixed mind: She says that McCain's announcement showed leadership, but concedes that McCain went for political theatrics and "if McCain had really been serious about this, he should have worked it out with Obama in private."

Finally, Howard Wasserman at Prawfs Blawg and Michael Dorf both argue that irrespective of politics or what needs to be done in Washington, the debate must go on so that the public can learn more about the issues.

• Will Postponement Violate Fair Broadcast Laws? David Oxenford of the Broadcast Law Blog wonders whether McCain's failure to show up would violate the FCC's equal opportunity rules. He explains:

If Barack Obama were to appear at the debate and answer questions, and that appearance was televised, would the stations that carried the debates later be subject to a claim for equal opportunities by the McCain campaign?  Under FCC precedent, the answer would be "yes." [...] What would this mean if a station was to cover a debate where Obama showed and McCain did not?  If the McCain campaign were to timely request equal opportunities, stations would have to provide to McCain time equal to the amount of time that Obama appeared on screen, and McCain could do anything with that time that he wanted - he would not have to answer questions from the debate moderator.  Thus, traditionally, if only one candidate shows up for a scheduled debate that is supposed to be broadcast, the debate (or at least the broadcast) is canceled.

• How Would Your Law Firm Juggle Two Important Clients? For me, McCain's proposal triggered the question of how a law firm might juggle two important client matters.  For example, if a firm had an important Supreme Court argument scheduled, but another client needed a fire put out earlier that week, it's doubtful that the firm would cancel one matter to deal with the other.  Though I wholeheartedly agree with McCain's insistence on focusing on the bailout and coming to Washington to do so (and believe that Obama should do the same), I don't understand why McCain can't address both the budget and still go forward with the debate.  If law firms can multitask, why can't politicians do the same?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 25, 2008 at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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