The Trail

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


McCain Addresses Economy

John McCain declared the nation's economy in "crisis" yesterday during a speech aimed at bolstering his credentials on domestic issues.

Speaking to a small-business group in Southern California, the presumptive GOP nominee described the development of the housing bubble and the forces that combined to burst it.

"The net result is the crisis we face," McCain told the group. "What started as a problem in subprime loans has now convulsed the entire financial system."

The speech is just the start of an effort by McCain's campaign to shift the perception that his only expertise is on foreign policy and military matters.

Democrats, including his potential rivals for the presidency, have hammered McCain, saying he appears disconnected from the economic situation of most Americans and has not laid out an economic vision for the country.

A Democratic National Committee spokesman pointed to a comment about the housing crisis McCain made to an editorial board, in which he said: "But I can't come down yet and give you a specific solution because I don't claim to be smart enough."

McCain said he remained open to a wide range of solutions to the present financial turmoil, including government assistance, while making clear that his patience for a bailout would be very short.

"Any assistance must be temporary and must not reward people who were irresponsible at the expense of those who weren't," he said.

-- Michael D. Shear


Clinton Weighs In on Wright

Hillary Clinton, speaking for the first time directly about the association between the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. and Barack Obama, said "getting up and moving" would have been the right response to hearing the preacher's fiery sermons that attacked America.

Wright "would not have been my pastor," Clinton said during an interview with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend," she said. Obama, who said he disagrees with some of Wright's sermons, refused to disavow the retired pastor.

Clinton had previously declined to talk about the Wright controversy. But, speaking in Pittsburgh, she cited her earlier condemnation of radio host Don Imus after he insulted the Rutgers women's basketball team as an example of how Obama should have reacted to his pastor's words.

"You know, I spoke out against Don Imus, saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that," the paper quoted Clinton as saying. "I think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving."

Bill Burton, an Obama spokesman, responded that it was "disappointing to see Hillary Clinton's campaign sink to this low" and noted that Obama had already spoken out against his pastor's offensive comments.

-- Anne E. Kornblut


Obama Nudges Clinton on Taxes

Barack Obama attempted to up the ante in his effort to force Hillary Clinton to release her income tax returns before mid-April, when her presidential campaign had said it would release them.

Obama released copies of his tax returns covering 2000 to 2006, forms that revealed the income he has received from his publishing deals, and his wife's pay.

"This campaign is now going on into its 14th month, and I don't think voters should have to wait until three days before the next primary to learn more about the finances of the Clintons," Obama communications director Robert Gibbs said in a conference call.

The returns showed the Obamas reported just under $1 million in income during 2005 and gave more than $60,000 to charity in 2006 and $77,000 in 2005. Those donations included $5,000 to Trinity United Church of Christ in 2005.

Gibbs urged the Clintons to follow suit, saying questions had already been raised about the nature of many of their investments. The Clinton campaign fired back by calling Obama's personal finances "opaque" in comparison with the Clintons' release of 20 years of tax returns while Bill Clinton was in the White House. Gibbs said her campaign hasn't released returns from the period since the Clintons left the White House and made most of their money.

-- Matthew Mosk and Alec MacGillis

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