With more signs of a Wall Street meltdown, both major presidential candidates sought today to convince voters that they're the one to stop the bleeding.
Republican John McCain launched a TV ad, called "Crisis," that tries to bring his reformist brand to bear.
"Our economy in crisis. Only proven reformers John McCain and Sarah Palin can fix it," the announcer says.
The ad shows images of a foreclosure sign, a Lehman Brothers building, and a forlorn trader.
"Tougher rules on Wall Street to protect your life savings. No special interest giveaways. Lower taxes to create new jobs. Offshore drilling to reduce gas prices. McCain- Palin. Leadership, experience, for the change we need."
McCain also sought to reassure jittery markets, telling an audience in Jacksonville, Fla., this morning: "You know, that there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street and it is -- people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times."
Democrat Barack Obama's campaign, on the other hand, used the crisis to argue that McCain is out of touch.
"If all you do is walk the halls of power, all you’ll hear is the wants of the powerful," Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden said in Michigan. "Ladies and gentleman, I believe that’s why John McCain could say with a straight face as recently as this morning, and this is a quote, 'The fundamentals of the economy are strong.' That’s what John said. He says that we’ve made great progress economically, in the Bush years. Ladies and gentlemen, 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.”
UPDATE: In Orlando this afternoon, McCain responded to those attacks on him saying the "fundamentals" of the US economy are strong by trying to put a populist tinge on his explanation.
"This economic crisis is not the fault of the American people," he said. "Our workers are the most innovative, the hardest working, the best skilled, most productive, most competitive in the world. That's the American worker. My opponents may disagree, but those fundamentals of America are strong."
Those fundamentals, he said, are being threatened by greed and corruiption on Wall Street.
“But their efforts are not being matched at the top. From Washington to Wall Street, the top of our economy is broken. We have seen self interest, greed, irresponsibility and corruption undermine the hard work of the American people.
“It’s time to set things right. When I am president, we’re going to put an end to the abuses in Washington and on Wall Street that have resulted in the crisis we are seeing unfold today.
“Enough is enough. We are going to reform the way Wall Street does business and put an end to the greed that has driven our markets into chaos. We will stop multimillion dollar payouts to CEOs who have broken the public trust. We will put an end as I said to running Wall Street like a casino. We will make businesses work for the benefit of their shareholders and employees. And we will make sure that your savings, IRAs, 401k and pensions are protected.”
Campaigning in Golden, Colo., McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, also took a populist tone. She promised to protect the deposits of ordinary Americans and to put an end to mismanagement and abuses and "golden parachutes" for executives.
The regulatory framework on Wall Street, she said, "needs a complete overhaul," and she and McCain will make it happen.
The Obama camp further argued that a McCain administration would let lobbyists stop common-sense regulations from reforming Wall Street.
“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. John McCain buys into the same failed economic theory that landed us in this mess in the first place, and we can’t afford to take a chance on his disturbingly out-of-touch policies at a time when our economy is in crisis,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said in response to the ad.
And the Obama campaign asserted that he had been prescient, laying out in a March speech the need for common-sense "rules for the road" for financial markets.
In Grand Junction, Colo., Obama said he had met with his economic advisers and made remarks along the lines of an earlier statement:
“This morning we woke up to some very serious and troubling news from Wall Street. The situation with Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions is the latest in a wave of crises that are generating enormous uncertainty about the future of our financial markets. This turmoil is a major threat to our economy and its ability to create good-paying jobs and help working Americans pay their bills, save for their future, and make their mortgage payments.
“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. Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression.
“I certainly don’t fault Senator McCain for these problems, but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. 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. It’s a philosophy that says even common-sense regulations are unnecessary and unwise, and one that says we should just stick our heads in the sand and ignore economic problems until they spiral into crises.
“Well now, instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up – from the struggles of hardworking Americans on Main Street to the largest firms of Wall Street. This country can’t afford another four years of this failed philosophy. For years, I have consistently called for modernizing the rules of the road to suit a 21st century market – rules that would protect American investors and consumers. And I’ve called for policies that grow our economy and our middle-class together. That is the change I am calling for in this campaign, and that is the change I will bring as President.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.