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Candidates call for bipartisan support of rescue plan

October 01, 2008|Seema Mehta and Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writers

DES MOINES — After trading barbs over the financial crisis and the collapse of the rescue package, John McCain and Barack Obama on Tuesday softened their rhetoric, at least in their public appearances, calling for bipartisanship and pledging to work with reluctant members of Congress to craft a palatable solution.

The two senators acted as pitchmen for the bailout, arguing that the rescue of financial institutions is vital to the fortunes of the middle class. And both campaigns said the candidates would return to Washington today to cast their votes if the Senate takes up the legislation, as expected.

"One of the reasons why Congress failed to act in fact is because it hasn't really sunk in that the people who are hurting and are being hurt are Main Street: families, small businesses," McCain said during an economic round table at a manufacturing plant here. As examples, he cited Sonic drive-in restaurant franchisees and students at a technical college in Wisconsin whose access to bank loans has been cut off.

"Those kinds of people that are the engine of our economy," he said.

Both men also sought to reassure voters wary of risking so much taxpayer money.

"This is not a plan to just hand over $700 billion of your money to a few banks on Wall Street," said Obama at a rally on the sun-splashed quad of the University of Nevada, Reno.

"If this is managed correctly, we will hopefully get most or all of our money back, possibly even turn a profit on the government's investment -- every penny of which will go directly back to you, the investor, or will be going into drawing down on our national debt," he said.

It was a marked change from Monday, when Obama had mocked McCain's long-standing support for further deregulation of the nation's financial markets, and McCain blamed Obama and congressional Democrats for injecting partisanship into delicate negotiations.

On Tuesday, a little more than a month from election day, the candidates adopted a somber tone, and neither mentioned his rival by name.

But as McCain and Obama showed restraint, both campaigns unveiled critical national television advertisements. McCain's blames Democrats and Obama for the nation's economic crisis, while Obama's criticizes McCain's tax policy and paints him as a continuation of the Bush administration.

Obama campaigned in the Silver State, his fourth visit since the campaign began. Bush won Nevada by 21,500 votes, or 2.5%, in 2004, and it is expected to be a toss-up in November.

Obama told the crowd that under normal circumstances, he'd be tempted to give a "big, rip-roarin', rah-rah speech." But he said it was not a time for partisanship after a day in which $1 trillion of wealth was lost by the close of markets.

"Let me be perfectly clear. The fact that we are in this mess is an outrage. It's an outrage because we did not get here by accident. . . . This financial crisis is a direct result of the greed and irresponsibility that has dominated Washington and Wall Street for years," he said. "While there is plenty of blame to go around, and many in Washington and Wall Street deserve it, all of us now have a responsibility to solve this crisis because it affects the financial well-being of every single American.

"There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out."

Campaigning in Iowa -- a state that is tilting strongly toward Obama -- McCain lambasted Congress, saying lawmakers' lack of leadership and inability to pass a rescue plan could put the nation in peril.

"We are in the greatest financial crisis in our lifetime," he said. "Congressional inaction has put every American in the entire economy at grave risk."

But the GOP nominee said now is not the time for finger-pointing or blame.

"We cannot allow a crisis in our financial system to become a crisis of confidence. I call on everyone in Washington to come together in a bipartisan way to come together to address this crisis," McCain said. "I know many solutions to this problem may be unpopular. The dire consequences of inaction will be far more damaging."

Obama and McCain both spoke with President Bush in the morning, and both urged the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to increase deposit protection to $250,000 per account. House Republicans claimed that the proposal was rejected by Democrats in the midst of negotiations, before the bailout package was voted down Monday in the House of Representatives.

The FDIC provision is expected to be included in the Senate bill that is expected to be voted on today.

"That's just one idea," Obama said, adding that both parties should be open to all ideas to get the deal done.

"We must act now. We can't have another day like yesterday. We can't risk another week or another month where American businesses are afraid to extend credit and lend money. That has an impact on housing right here in Nevada. That has an impact on the small-business owner who has got to make payroll.

"And if he can't make payroll on Friday, he may lay you off on Monday."


Mehta reported from Des Moines and Reston from Reno.

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