Staring into the abyss of economic ruin to be followed quickly by political ruin Americas political leaders are struggling to come together on a financial rescue package.
With President Bush seemingly unable to convince anyone of anything, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have abandoned ambiguity to call wholeheartedly for passage of a package.
And Congressional leaders once again are scrambling for a formula that will gain the 12 votes needed to pass the rescue in the House.
Its emphatically true that the Houses 23-vote rejection Monday of what was widely tagged as a $700 billion Wall Street bailout constituted a massive, bipartisan failure of leadership.
Still, certain Members stood out as profiles in courage while their colleagues headed for the high grass. And some leaders deserve credit for trying to save the day and for continuing to try.
Of 41 Members considered to be facing the toughest re-election races, only nine six Democrats and three Republicans bucked inflamed public opinion and voted to save the economy from ruin.
The roll of honor deserves to be called: Democratic Reps. Bill Foster (Ill.), Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Tim Mahoney (Fla.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Jerry McNerney (Calif.) and Christopher Murphy (Conn.).
And, even more so, the three Republicans, who did the right thing in the face of a Democratic tide raging against them: Reps. Mark Kirk (Ill.), Jon Porter (Nev.) and Christopher Shays (Conn.).
Kirk recommended to GOP leaders a political pact that might have saved the rescue package Monday and might help pass a new one.
It is: Have the House campaign committees agree not to mount campaign ads against Members favoring the bailout. So far, the idea has gone nowhere.
Another standout is Rep. John Campbell (Calif.), whose support for the rescue may have cost him leadership of the conservative Republican Study Group. Other Members also deserve credit for their roles in trying to save the financial markets from lockdown and the economy, from collapse.
Certainly Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is at the top of the list for working with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to craft an acceptable rescue package unsuccessfully, as it turned out.
Paulson was widely deemed the financial sectors savior a Wall Street David Petraeus when he brokered the takeovers of Bear Stearns and the American Insurance Group and nationalized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Now, hes being pilloried as a political George Custer for presenting Congress with a plan for massive government intervention in the economy with too few safeguards.
No question, Frank and Paulson erred in not fully consulting House Republicans as they worked up fixes, even though Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had decreed that the GOP was expected to deliver at least 90 votes to pass the package and share ownership.