Is John McCain really that detached from reality? Ya THINK?!
Candidates on Wall Street TurmoilBy Jeff Zeleny
Updated: GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Hours after Senator John McCain said “the fundamentals of our economy are strong,” Senator Barack Obama seized upon the remark on Monday and offered a blistering critique of the Republican Party’s stewardship of the economy as the Wall Street turmoil created ripples in the presidential campaign.
“We just woke up to news of financial disaster and this morning and he said that the fundamentals of the economy are still strong?” Mr. Obama told voters at an afternoon rally here. “Senator McCain, what economy are you talking about?”
As he campaigned in Florida on Monday, Mr. McCain cautioned against panic as the stock market fell, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy protection and Merrill Lynch was abruptly acquired. He acknowledged “tremendous turmoil in our financial markets” but said taxpayers should not be forced to pay for a government bailout.
“People are frightened by these events,” Mr. McCain said at a rally in Jacksonville. “Our economy, I think still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times.”
Mr. Obama’s campaign pounced on the remarks, pointing to them as the latest evidence that Mr. McCain did not appreciate the severity of the crisis.
“I could walk from here to Lansing and I wouldn’t run into a single person who thought our economy was doing well, unless I ran into John McCain,” Mr. Obama’s running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., said during a campaign stop in St. Clair Shores, Mich.
At Mr. McCain’s next campaign stop in Orlando, he opened a town meeting by clarifying what he meant when he said the fundamentals of the economy are strong, saying he was referring to workers and small business owners.
“My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals – the American worker, the innovation, the entrepreneurship, the small business – are the fundamentals of America and I think they are strong,” Mr. McCain said. “But today, are being threatened today – those fundamentals are being threatened today because of the greed by some based in Wall Street and we have got to fix it.”
With 50 days remaining before Election Day, the disturbance in the nation’s financial markets shaped the debate, and the points of disagreement, between the two presidential candidates as they campaigned in different regions of the country.
Mr. Obama, who began a three-day Western campaign swing on Monday, was already intending to focus on the economy. But the news of Wall Street – and Mr. McCain’s remarks in Florida – added a fresh measure of intensity to a speech here in Grand Junction.
Mr. Obama characterized the situation on Wall Street as “the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression,” blaming the policies employed during the last eight years of a Republican-controlled White House for the upheaval.
“I certainly don’t fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to,” Mr. Obama told several hundred people who gathered for an outdoor rally on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. “It’s a philosophy we’ve had for the last eight years – one that says we should give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else.”
He added, “This country can’t afford another four years of this failed philosophy.”
While both presidential contenders released statements, advertisements and comments about the financial downturn on Wall Street, neither offered immediate solutions or new proposals.
“The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren’t minding the store,” Mr. Obama said. “Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to C.E.O.’s while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.”
The McCain-Palin campaign released a television commercial earlier Monday, titled “Crisis” that focused on the troubled economy, citing foreclosures and job losses. It also repeated the candidate’s pronouncement that there would be no “special interest giveaways,” were the Republicans elected, as the site of Lehman Brothers in downtown Manhattan flashed upon the screen. In the advertisement, he promised to shore up protections for voters’ savings.
Bill Burton, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, responded to the advertisement in a statement: “John McCain has been in Washington for twenty-six years and hasn’t lifted a finger to reform the regulations that could’ve prevented this crisis. In fact, his campaign is run by some of the very same lobbyists who fought against these regulations and worked to put special interest giveaways in our federal budget. Now he’s proposing $200 billion in tax breaks for the biggest corporations in America but not one penny of relief to more than 100 million Americans who are worried about their life savings and their ability to make their mortgage payments.”
While the Obama campaign sought to keep the conversation trained on the economy, Mr. Obama also unveiled a new television commercial called “Honor” that is intended to challenge his Republican rival’s credibility by pointing a series of editorials that have scolded Mr. McCain for recent statements and charges made against Mr. Obama.
“What happened to John McCain?” an announcer says at the beginning of the commercial. “It seems deception is all he’s got left.”
Tucker Bounds, a spokesman for Mr. McCain, said the advertisement was inappropriate “as Americans face economic uncertainty.”
“This latest ad by Barack Obama is a desperate effort to move away from talking about his thin, but alarming record on the issues,” Mr. Bounds said, “and it isn’t going to reform Washington or strengthen our economy.”