Obama readies own economic rescue
by Jitendra Joshi
MIAMI (AFP) - US Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama pondered his own economic rescue plan Saturday, saying his White House rival John McCain was flailing at a time of financial crisis and a government rescue for Wall Street must shield regular Americans too.
The rivals navigated a presidential race transformed by the global economic storm as President George W. Bush's administration readied the biggest rescue package in decades for the crippled financial sector.
Obama said he would present his recovery blueprint once the Treasury and Federal Reserve plan is known, as McCain proposed a trust to intervene before financial institutions approach bankruptcy.
The New York Times reported Saturday the administration's rescue package, whose cost is estimated to reach 500 billion dollars , calls for buying assets only from US financial institutions -- but not hedge funds -- and hiring outside advisers who would work for the Treasury Department.
The Republican also laid into Obama, accusing him of taking campaign cash and counsel from some of the big-business architects of the crisis.
"Senator Obama may be taking their advice and he may be taking their money, but in a McCain-Palin administration, there will be no seat for these people at the policy-making table," McCain said. Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is McCain's running mate.
"This is the problem with Washington, people like Senator Obama have been too busy gaming the system and haven't ever done a thing to actually challenge the system," he said in the battleground state of Wisconsin.
"Maybe just this once he could spare us the lectures, and admit to his own poor judgment in contributing to these problems."
At a later rally in Minnesota, McCain added: "That's not country first. That's Obama first." The crowd responded with chants of "Nobama!"
Obama, at his own rally in Florida where he assailed McCain on women's issues, said that in the Republican's remarks, "his big solution to this worldwide economic crisis was to blame me for it."
"This is a guy who's spent nearly three decades in Washington. After spending the entire campaign saying I haven't been in Washington long enough, he apparently now is willing to assign me responsibility for all of Washington's failings," he said.
"I think it's pretty clear that Senator McCain is a little panicked right now. At this point he seems to be willing to say anything, or do anything, or change any position, or violate any principle to try and win this election."
Obama's rally came after he convened a meeting in Coral Gables, Florida of his top economic advisers including former Treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, and ex-Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker.
The Illinois senator, who has bounced back into a lead of a few points in the race ahead of the November 4 election, according to national polls, called for calm and bipartisanship.
"John McCain and I can continue to argue about our different economic agendas for next year, but we should come together now to work on what this country urgently needs this year," he said.
University of Miami graduate student Christine Hughes said the Democratic nominee's speech was "fabulous."
"He hit on every woman's issues when it comes to money, and especially education," Hughes said.
While the Democrat appealed for an "emergency economic plan for working families," McCain said Obama was being advised by former top executives at the scandal-ridden Fannie Mae mortgage giant, which was taken over by the government this month.
Obama's campaign in turn pointed to the presence of seven influential former corporate lobbyists at the highest ranks of McCain's campaign staff, as each side vied to portray the other as beholden to vested interests.
McCain expanded Friday on his plan for a Mortgage and Financial Institutions trust.
"The MFI is an early intervention program to help financial institutions avoid bankruptcy, expensive bailouts and damage to their customers," he said, battling to stay on the offensive after a week of adverse media coverage.
Obama recapped McCain's evolution from Monday, when he said the US economy was fundamentally "strong," via his opposition Tuesday to any bailout for the giant insurer American International Group, to backing the government's rescue deal for AIG Wednesday.
By the end of the week, the Democrat said scornfully, McCain was railing against corporate greed after a career spent pushing for less government regulation of companies including Wall Street banks.
Obama noted mounting anxiety as many voters see their pensions wiped out by the tumult in the financial sector, but stressed: "This isn't a time for fear or panic. This is a time for resolve and for leadership.
"I know we can steer ourselves out of this crisis."