McCain: 'The whole future of the American economy is in danger'
John McCain said Thursday his "old navy pilot" instincts told him he must suspend his White House bid, hours before flying to Washington for unprecedented talks on the Wall Street bailout plan.
The Republican presidential candidate said he could not stay on the campaign trail as normal while the future of the American economy was at stake.
"I'm an old Navy pilot, and I know when a crisis calls for all hands on deck," McCain said in a speech to the annual meeting of former president Bill Clinton's foundation here.
"That's the situation in Washington at this very hour, when the whole future of the American economy is in danger," McCain said ahead of the White House talks also including his Democratic foe Barack Obama and congressional leaders.
"I cannot carry on a campaign as though this dangerous situation had not occurred or as though a solution were at hand, which it clearly is not," McCain said.
"As of this morning I suspended my political campaign. With so much on the line, for America and the world, the debate that matters most right now is taking place in the United States Capitol -- and I intend to join it.
"Senator Obama is doing the same. America should be proud of the bipartisanship we are seeing."
Democrats have accused McCain of throwing himself into high-stakes congressional negotiations on the 700-billion-dollar bailout in a desperate attempt to turn around a campaign sagging in the polls.
But the Arizona senator said "it's time for everyone to recall that the political process is not an end in itself, nor is it intended to serve those of us who are in the middle of it.
"In the Senate of the United States, our duty is to serve the people of this country, and we can serve them best now by putting politics aside and dealing in a focused, straightforward, bipartisan way with the problem that's at hand."
"For the Congress, this is one of those moments when poor decisions made in haste could turn ... into disaster," McCain said, warning that: "history must not record that our leadership ... was unable to put aside politics."
After his talks, McCain was jetting back to Washington for unprecedented White House talks with President George W. Bush, Democratic candidate Barack Obama and senior congressional leaders on the bailout.
McCain called for five changes to the bailout plan as it is currently framed, including improving oversight provisions and curbs tax-payer funded payoffs for disgraced executives.
In a dramatic gambit on Wednesday, McCain said he was putting his campaign on hold and called for Friday's night's first presidential debate to be delayed.
Obama said the debate should go ahead, but agreed to a call by President George W. Bush to return to Washington to take place in the finance summit.