It was possible. Air space was crowded yesterday afternoon. McCain's plane wouldn't land in time for the taping.
Not wanting the final three weeks of the campaign to be an even heightened McCain feeding frenzy on the popular late night show, the Arizona Senator helicoptered up to New York in time for the taping.
All McCain, all the time
McCain's appearance was a perfect opportunity for Letterman to target the Republican nominee. Actually, his non-appearance provided many opportunities as well. Regardless, it was as the audience expected. A McCain-fest.
"Boy, you folks are here on a great night and I’ll tell you why – the entire balcony is filled with state troopers fired by Sarah Palin….there they are," he began.
Introducing himself, as he always does, Letterman offered, "And by the way, I’m your host for the program. I’m Dave the Plumber."
"How many of you saw the debate last night from Hofstra out there on Long Island," he continued. "I wanna tell you, it was a different John McCain, wasn’t it? He was electric. He electrified the crowd. And afterwards, Cloris Leachman tossed him her hotel key."
It didn't stop there, of course. Plenty more jokes were had the expense of McCain before Letterman unveiled the top ten list for the evening.
The target? Not McCain. Close enough though. It was his new super-hero friend: Joe the quasi-plumber. We've included the entire top ten list at the bottom of this post.
As for their conversation, the first few minutes were all about McCain's infamous cancellation. From Letterman asking of McCain, "Can you stay?" Yes, said McCain.
To the simple question that brought down the house: "What exactly happened?" Letterman asked.
McCain appeared as guilty as a student in the principal's office.
"I screwed up," he grimaced.
Not good enough
"You called me an hour and a half [before the show] and said 'We gotta get back to Washington.' But you didn't go right back to Washington," Letterman said.
"What can I say," McCain said. "It's been reviewed pretty thoroughly."
After Letterman said – to a much-relieved McCain – that he was "willing to put this behind us," the two eventually moved off the topic of the cancellation and on to the campaign.
When McCain asked if the comic was going to be saddened at the conclusion of the presidential contest because of the comic fodder it provides, Letterman deadpanned, "We're going off the air, John."
"Joe the Plumber" – the new fixture of the McCain campaign – surfaced many times during the evening.
As to the current controversy over whether Joe's taxes would actually increase under Obama's tax plan, McCain received audience laughter and applause for his answer.
"Now's not the time to raise anybody's taxes – except yours," he said pointing to Letterman. "And I guarantee you when I'm president, I'll do it."
It was easy to see why McCain has appeared so many times on the Letterman show (last night was his 14th). The two have a genuine rapport and enjoy each other.
On the serious topic of finding Osama bin Laden, McCain said better human intelligence was needed – adding in a jab at Letterman.
"We have great satellites. We know a lot of your conversations," he said.
"If you are unable to fulfill your office, we get a 9/11 attack, Sarah Palin is the president who leads us through that," Letterman said.
After McCain mentioned her executive experience as Governor of Alaska, he drew conclusions to other governors who went on to the presidency.
"Look, in all due respect, one of the people I admire most was an obscure governor of a southern state called Arkansas," he said of Bill Clinton. "And he turned out to be a fairly successful president. I mean, Ronald Reagan was a cowboy – no experience in international affairs. Look, I think she has shown leadership. I think she’s shown executive ability. And I think she has shown a degree of reform that we need – does anyone think we don’t need to clean up the mess in Washington?"
The Top Ten List, as promised
"Messages left on Joe the Plumber’s Answering Machine"
10. “Hey, heard you mentioned in the debate, now can you come over and get the hairball out of my drain?”
9. “Joe Six Pack calling; what are you trying to pull?”
8. “Sorry, wrong number. I was looking for Larry the Cable Guy.”
7. “Dude – did you get to meet Sallie Mae?”
6. “This is Sarah Palin, do you consider yourself a maverick plumber?”
5. “You had a better night than Joe the Dodgers Manager.”
4. “Hi, this is Bob Schieffer. Hijack one of my debates again and I’ll bust your kneecaps with a pipe wrench.”
3. “Joe, you gotta get a copy of this Late Show Fun Facts book – it’s hilarious!”
2. “It’s Brian from the Late Show, are you available tonight if McCain cancels?”
1. “It’s Madonna, are you seeing anybody?”
Here's a link to the video.