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07 September 2008

Campaigns Voice Support for Rescue of Fannie and Freddie

Campaigns Voice Support for Rescue of Fannie and Freddie

Published: September 6, 2008

ALBUQUERQUE — Both presidential campaigns expressed support on Saturday for the planned government takeover of Fannie Mae andFreddie Mac as a necessary step to protect homeowners from further distress.

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Senator Barack Obama, in comments to reporters in Terre Haute, Ind., said that although he supported the concept of a takeover, he would withhold final judgment until the Treasury Department released a detailed outline of the plan.

“Any action we take has to be focused not on the whims of lobbyists and special interests worried about their hourly fees,” said Mr. Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, “but on whether it’s going to strengthen our economy, whether it’s going to help strengthen the housing market and help struggling homeowners who are also being hit by lost jobs and stagnant wages.”

Senator John McCain, the Republican nominee for president, said at a rally in Albuquerque that “we need to keep people in their homes, but we can’t allow this to turn into a bailout of Wall Street speculators.”

His chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said in a telephone interview that Mr. McCain saw the takeover as distasteful but essential. “You’ve got to do what they’re doing today,” Mr. Holtz-Eakin said. “You make every effort to insulate the mortgage and financial markets from financial distress so there’s no further harm to homeowners and businesses in general.”

Mr. McCain’s running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, went further and called for the mortgage giants to be scaled back.

“They’ve gotten too big and too expensive to taxpayers,” Ms. Palin said in Colorado Springs. “The McCain-Palin administration will make them smaller and smarter and more effective for homeowners who need help.”

Ms. Palin’s statement, among her first on domestic policy, reflects longtime Republican criticism of the management and size of the companies, which own or back $5.3 trillion in mortgages. But Democrats have countered that scaling back the companies in the midst of a housing crisis would make mortgages more difficult to obtain.

Mr. Obama said he had a “lengthy conversation” late Friday with Treasury SecretaryHenry M. Paulson Jr. but declined to discuss details.

“There is no doubt that what was taking place in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was in many instances irresponsible — it may have been illegal,” Mr. Obama said.

Elisabeth Bumiller reported from Albuquerque, and Jeff Zeleny from Terre Haute, Ind.

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