Political News

McCain, Obama trade heated jabs over the economy

Posted September 16, 2008
Updated September 17, 2008

— John McCain and Barack Obama traded increasingly barbed insults along with prescriptions for the ailing economy Tuesday as financial fears shoved aside lipstick on pigs and every other political issue in a blink with just weeks left in the long presidential campaign.

An ad by Democrat Obama sneered: "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?"

Getting even more personal, Republican McCain retorted: "Sen. Obama saw an economic crisis, and he's found a political opportunity. My friends, this is not a time for political opportunism; this is a time for leadership."

McCain commented as he and running mate Sarah Palin addressed a rally late Tuesday in Vienna, Ohio.

The verbal dueling showed the importance both candidates put on the issue of the economy as the continuing financial meltdown on Wall Street has driven all other issues out of the news. Both campaigns now believe the candidate who manages to wrest control of the issue and gain voters' confidence could well be the next president.

Earlier in the day, McCain called for a crisis commission, while Obama laughed that off as "the oldest Washington stunt in the book."

"This isn't 9/11," Obama told a noisy crowd of more than 2,000 at the Colorado School of Mines, dismissing the idea of a need for study. "We know how we got into this mess. What we need now is leadership that gets us out. I'll provide it. John McCain won't."

McCain, campaigning in Florida, promised reforms, too, to expose and end the "reckless conduct, corruption and unbridled greed" that he said had caused the financial crisis on Wall Street."

The bewildering turmoil has shaken Americans' confidence, erased hundreds of billions of paper wealth for U.S. stockholders and led McCain and Obama to forsake other controversies and scramble back to the economy as the primary concern of voters.

The presidential campaign had taken an odd turn to side issues - Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere" and moose-hunting, Obama's crack about lipstick on a pig - after McCain's surprise pick of Alaska Gov. Palin as his running mate. There was a fascination with huge crowds attracted by Palin. But the collapse and merger of some of Wall Street's legendary companies forced a return to reality seven weeks before the election.

What do the voters think?

McCain and Obama now are trusted equally on the economy, with 34 percent of voters naming each as the candidate who would do a better job dealing with what is easily the country's top worry, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll conducted last week. Previously, Obama had had a solid advantage on the issue.

McCain wasn't sticking to economics on Tuesday. His comments grew more personal as the day wore on.

He criticized the Illinois senator for taking donations from executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - the mortgage giants taken over by the government last week - and for putting former Fannie Mae CEO Jim Johnson in charge of his vice presidential search. The Arizona senator also chastised Obama for missing an economic stimulus vote, even though McCain himself missed a vote - and the possibility of breaking a Senate tie - a day earlier on a broader package. Obama voted for that package.

As for Wall Street and the nation's housing woes, Obama called the crisis "the most serious financial situation in generations."

"Since this turmoil began over a year ago," the Illinois senator said, "the housing market has all but collapsed. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had to be effectively taken over by the government. Three of America's five largest investment banks failed or have been sold off in distress. Yesterday, Wall Street suffered its worst losses since just after 9/11."

He said McCain and President Bush subscribe to the same approach: "support ideological policies that made the crisis more likely, do nothing as the crisis hits and then scramble as the whole thing collapses." Obama said he has supported legislation to stop mortgage transactions that promote fraud, risk or abuse and has urged the administration to bring all parties together to find a solution to the subprime mortgage meltdown.

McCain declared on Monday that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." Then, after Obama accused him of being out of touch, he conceded the country was in an economic crisis but still said the fundamental strength of the American worker remained strong.

On Tuesday, McCain struck a populist chord against Wall Street greed. He called for a commission to probe the root causes of the country's financial mess - such as the high-level panel that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. And he reiterated that no more taxpayer money should be used to rescue private institutions such as the large insurer AIG.

Hours later, he used a rally before several thousand in Tampa to promise that "if Gov. Palin and I are elected in 49 days we're not going to waste a moment in changing the way Washington does business."

Obama said the nation did not need another commission, like the one proposed by McCain.

"History shows us that there's no substitute for presidential leadership in times of economic crisis," he said. "FDR and Harry Truman didn't put their heads in the sand and hand accountability over to a commission. Bill Clinton didn't put off hard choices. They led and that's what I will do."


Terence Hunt reported with the Obama campaign in Colorado, Johnson reported with the McCain campaign in Ohio and Florida.


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  • ncsuspam Sep 17, 2008

    what we need to do is get a bunch of fake squirrels and put them all around the entire nation and put it on the deficit (tab), like we do everything else. These other "problems" will sort themselves out.

  • EdTeach Sep 17, 2008

    Forgive me if someone’s already said it, but I’m reading “McCain and Obama now are trusted equally on the economy” to mean:

    “No one trusts either of them because while one has been part of the problem for years, the other has no experience with the problem.”

    But maybe I’m projecting…

  • lauraleigh Sep 17, 2008

    ThinkChick, Brava

  • bama211 Sep 17, 2008

    sunburnmenot said: I'm so confused..

    Haha...I hear ya' amigo. It's some confusing stuff going on right now. It doesn't help when folks are point fingers at others and poking everyone else in the chest. Look at it like this: The nation's credit card balance just went through the roof, and matched by it's hours and wages being cut. Not a good scenario to be in. The risk on the table now is keeping that "most excellent" credit score when the monthly credit card bill comes in the mail.

  • ThinkChick Sep 17, 2008

    Oh and by the way, the majority of this fall out is due to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's collapse. Franklin Raines and Joe Johnston were at the helm as the crisis built, bilked it for hundreds of millions and were pressured to resign. They are Obama's two main economic advisors. Phil Gramm cannot take all the heat.

    Second point of note: Dem Senators Schumer, Kerry and McCaskill intervened in Iraqi domestic politics earlier this year to prevent Iraq from signing short-term agreements with Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, Chevron, and BP....The oil is going to China instead.

    So before you blame Bush - McCain - America in whatever order you so choose, please at least have the good grace to consider that the whole picture is not in the mainstream press...

    "Facts are stubborn things" said John Adams. Indeed.

  • Here kitty kitty Sep 17, 2008

    I'm so confused...

  • mep Sep 17, 2008

    Neither McCain nor Obama have a clear solution for the economic woes of Wall Street. I do however like McCains position of not bailing out any more companies with taxpayers money. I'm a little more frightened by Obama's statement about not wanting to investigate why this happened, but rather just go in and do something. Obomatrons in this country fail to see that "change" for the sake of changing is not always a good thing. People invest their money in Wall Street in the hopes of making more money. The greater the risk, the more they can make. Both the dems and republicans are at fault for the easing of govt regulations. That along with an over inflated realestate market, way too easy loans to folks who could not pay, and greed in general has finally caught up with the market. And the market will survive. Our 401K's may not. But thats Vegas, wall street style.

  • George Costanza Sep 17, 2008

    ANy discussion regarding the economy without addressing the cost of fuel is futile at best. The cost to transport and produce products directly affects the consumers who buy. This in turn is directly influenced by the cost fuel and energy. Giving tax breaks to people who have to pay $4.20 a gallon to travel 20 miles isn't going to help with "spending".

  • bobbythreesticks Sep 17, 2008

    I'm not saying that FDR & Truman didn't try a ton of things to fix the economy, but the truth is, they didn't fix it, WWII fixed the economy. The unemployeed went to war, manufacturers began manufacturing again, etc.

  • PaulRevere Sep 17, 2008

    Interesting the media felt it necessary to report the crowd size of Obama's revival meeting with his followers, but failed to do so when McCain-Palin drew 10,000 in Colorado. Bias? What bias?!?!!??!?!?!?