Wednesday, September 17, 2008

GOLDEN, Colo. - Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain called Tuesday for a commission to determine how Wall Street got suckered by “greed and corruption,” but his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, said the country needs action, not studies that would allow the government to duck its responsibilities.

As Wall Street continued to reel from a day of turmoil in the financial sector, the presidential candidates tried to capitalize by expressing outrage over “greed” and by demonstrating that they are in touch with anxious Americans.

“This isn’t 9/11. We know how we got in this mess. What we need is leadership to get us out,” Mr. Obama told a standing-room-only crowd at the Colorado School of Mines, rejecting Mr. McCain’s call for a Sept. 11-style commission to examine economic failings.

A day after Mr. McCain was assailed for saying the economy remains fundamentally strong for American workers, the senator from Arizona frequently used the word “crisis” and peppered his campaign speeches, television appearances and a new ad with a stark populist message blaming greedy investors and companies.

“We are going to put an end to the reckless conduct, corruption and unbridled greed that have caused a crisis on Wall Street,” he said while campaigning in Tampa, Fla.

Joined in Vienna, Ohio, by his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, he said government should prevent chief executives from bailing out with general severance packages when their companies fail, and called for stiffer regulatory oversight of Wall Street’s books and investment models. Those ideas break with the core Republican tenet that free markets work best with limited regulation.

“Government has a clear responsibility to act in defense of the public interest and that’s what I intend to do,” he said. “In our administration we are going to hold the people of Wall Street responsible.”

The political exchanges threatened to force the campaign conversation back to serious policy ground after days of coverage saturated with Mrs. Palin’s lipstick, glasses and prowess as a moose hunter.

Mr. McCain said he had warned two years ago about a collapse of government-backed mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He pointed to a Senate bill he co-sponsored that would have revamped the system.

Mr. Obama said the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the problems of other financial giants are results of Republican tax-cutting policies.

“What we’ve seen in the last few days is nothing less than the final verdict on an economic philosophy that has completely failed,” Mr. Obama said.

He repeated his call for $50 billion in new spending on infrastructure, which he said would create 1 million jobs. He also called for a “universal homeowners tax cut” of 10 percent that would help an estimated 10 million households, and said “it’s time to get serious about regulatory oversight” of the financial markets.

S.A. Miller reported from Ohio. Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

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