Commentary: Who exactly does McCain think debate gambit will fool?

John McCain doesn't like televised debates. Instead, he prefers to do town hall meetings, the informal Q-and-A sessions where he can engage the people directly without interference from that pesky news media. And no wonder: he revived his 2008 presidential bid by barnstorming the country doing town halls.

Wednesday, McCain announced that he wants to skip Friday's first presidential debate with Barack Obama because it's in the "national interest" to deal with the impending financial situation.

These facts are not unrelated. If McCain succeeds in cancelling Friday's debate, that would leave just two scheduled opportunities for his opponent to engage him directly on national television ... and one of them would be a town hall meeting.

Well, it sort of serves Barack Obama right. Obama was the one, after all, who decided that a slim lead in the polls was reason enough to refuse McCain's calls for a series of town-hall meetings over the summer. I happen to believe that Obama would do pretty well in those town halls, because McCain has not held one where the room wasn't packed with Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, let alone held a town hall where his chief opponent was standing right there, ready to refute anything he said. Instead, he ducked out for political reasons, and now McCain is paying him back in his own currency.

So what does Obama do? Well, the only correct response to McCain's call to suspend the debate is to say: Forget it. And that is what both Ole Miss (the host school for Friday's debate) and Obama both said in their responses.

McCain's motives are transparent. He's not needed in Washington, so why does he want to go there?

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