Republican presidential candidates Ron Paul and Herman Cain shake hands… (Michael Nelson / European…)
Even Ron Paul is jumping on Herman Cain at the CNN debate in Las Vegas — this time over Cain’s comments about the Occupy Wall Street movement.
After Cain, who has been under siege for most of the night, doubled down on his previous comments that the protesters shouldn’t be blaming Wall Street for their woes, Paul accused the former pizza executive of having no sympathy for Americans who are down on their luck.
“I think Mr. Cain has blamed the victims,” the Texas Republican said. “There are a lot of people who are victims of this business cycle.”
And Paul delivered a veiled attack on Cain’s past as a member of a regional board of directors of the Federal Reserve, Paul’s favorite target. “They created the bubble,” he said.
Cain had said the protesters “are directing their anger at the wrong place. They ought to be over in front of the White House taking out their frustration.”
The back-and-forth was part of a larger debate over the role of the federal government in the recession and the Wall Street bailouts in 2008. “Guess who they bailed out?” Paul said. “The big corporations who were ripping people off in the derivatives market. Who got stuck? The middle class got stuck.”
Sen. Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, got into a tussle with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, accusing him of supporting the bailouts, a charge Perry has repeatedly denied. The controversy stems from a letter Perry sent to Capitol Hill as the financial markets collapsed, urging Congress to act.
But, Perry maintained, he didn’t mean the bailouts of Wall Street banks and the auto industry.
Cain also was tangled by the question, suggesting that he supported the bailouts but once he saw the American public’s resistance, he changed his mind.
The arguments came as the candidates were asked what they would do about the massive foreclosure problem in Nevada and elsewhere, but none addressed the issue head on. Rep. Michele Bachmann said she empathized with women faced with the prospect of losing their homes and urged them to “hold on.” But neither she, nor anyone else, detailed how they might provide relief.
Earlier in the day, Mitt Romney was criticized by Democrats for suggesting that the government should not intervene in the foreclosure crisis, saying that the market needed to bottom out. That brought a sharp retort from Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader.
“Mitt Romney owes the thousands of Nevada families struggling to keep a roof over their heads an apology,” Reid said in a statement. “With the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, Nevadans can’t afford someone in the White House whose response to this crisis is 'tough luck.'"