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On Economy, Obama Offers Ideas, McCain Blames Rival

Sen. Barack Obama speaks with economic adviser and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, left, and former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin before a rally at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla.
Sen. Barack Obama speaks with economic adviser and former Federal Reserve chairman Paul A. Volcker, left, and former Treasury secretary Robert Rubin before a rally at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. (Pool Photo By Al Diaz Via Getty Images)

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By Dan Balz and Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 20, 2008

MIAMI, Sept. 19 -- As officials in Washington raced to put together a bailout plan for the nation's teetering financial system, Sen. John McCain hammered Sen. Barack Obama as part of the problem while Obama said any rescue should include a new stimulus package for working families.

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Gyrating stock markets and the intensity of the discussions in Washington overshadowed the two presidential candidates on Friday. But the winner probably will find that his administration will be deeply affected by the results of what happens over the next few weeks.

Efforts to stabilize the financial system not only could affect the size of the federal budget deficit, but will add another large problem on top of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and make it more difficult for Obama and McCain to make their mark with a big domestic initiative.

With talks moving at a rapid pace in Washington, Obama met in Coral Gables, Fla., with his economic advisers and then strongly endorsed the work of Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke. Obama said he supported giving the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve the broad authority they need to shore up the system.

But he also renewed his call for Congress to enact a second stimulus package, saying that the current focus on Wall Street should not obscure the pain that working Americans have been feeling all year. Obama said that an injection of money into the economy should be part of immediate steps by the Bush administration and Congress.

"In the same bipartisan spirit that is being shown with regard to the crisis on Wall Street, I ask Senator McCain, President Bush, Republicans and Democrats to join me in supporting an emergency economic plan for working families," he said after meeting with his economic advisers.

McCain, campaigning in Wisconsin and Minnesota, did not react specifically to the emerging plan in Washington. Instead, he expanded on his idea for a Treasury entity that would identify and rescue ailing financial institutions before they failed.

But while he, too, said both parties must work together to solve the crisis, he mostly spent the day going after Obama in highly personal terms, saying the senator from Illinois had been "gaming" the system rather than trying to reform it.

McCain has aired and prepared, respectively, two ads that link Obama to former Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae chief executives Jim Johnson and Franklin D. Raines. McCain told a large, loud audience in Blaine, Minn., that Johnson had walked away from the mortgage giants with $21 million "of your money" in severance pay, while Raines received $25 million.

"Let's tell them to give it back," McCain said, and the crowd obliged, chanting "Give it back. Give it back."

While Fannie and Freddie have held favored statuses with the federal government that have contributed to their profits, the severance packages were paid by company shareholders, not taxpayers.

While McCain said earlier that there were many places to find blame for the crisis, at the rally he identified the mortgage giants as "the culprits as to how this began," and said Obama "actually profited from this system of abuse and scandal."


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