TOPICS > Politics

Candidates React to AIG Bailout, Tout Reform Plans

September 17, 2008 at 6:35 PM EDT
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Troubles on Wall Street and concerns over the U.S. economy took center stage on the campaign trail again Wednesday. Judy Woodruff reports on the latest remarks from Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama on financial sector shifts.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Democratic nominee Barack Obama campaigned today in Elko, Nevada, where he weighed in on the news of the rescue of insurance giant AIG.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: We don’t know all the details of the arrangement with AIG, but the Federal Reserve must ensure that plans protect the families that count on insurance, and it should bolster our economy’s ability to create good-paying jobs, and help working Americans pay their bills and save their money. It must not bail out the shareholders or management of AIG.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Meanwhile, John McCain was asked if he agreed with the AIG bailout during an appearance on ABC. A day earlier, he had said taxpayers should not be on the hook for the company.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: I didn’t want to do that, and I don’t think anybody I know wanted to do that. But there were literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investments, whose insurance were at risk here, and they were going to have their lives destroyed because of the greed and excess and corruption.

When I say corruption, many of these executives, these Wall Street CEOs, said, “Everything is fine,” as you know, up until a short time ago, “Everything is fine. Not to worry.”

Meanwhile, Congress, the regulators paid no attention whatsoever to it. We have an alphabet soup of regulatory agencies. All of them were asleep at the switch.

And the Congress, particularly as far as Fannie and Freddie are concerned, went right along with it, and the special interests and the lobbyists took over.

JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, also commented on the AIG take-over during a visit to a restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R), Alaska: It’s disappointing that taxpayers are called upon to bail out another one. Certainly AIG, though, with the construction bonds that they’re holding and with the insurance that they are holding, very, very impactful to Americans. So, you know, the shot that has been called by the Fed, it’s understandable, but very, very disappointing that taxpayers are called upon for another one.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This afternoon, McCain toured a General Motors plant in Lake Orion, Michigan, and said the government shouldn’t ignore the struggling auto industry while helping the financial sector.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I’m here to send a message to Washington and to Wall Street: We’re not going to leave the workers here in Michigan hung out to dry while we give billions in taxpayers’ dollars to Wall Street. We’re going to take care of the workers, the workers. They’re the ones that deserve our help.

Obama campaign hits hard at McCain

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Nevada, meanwhile, Obama mocked the various responses of McCain to this week's economic developments.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: His first reaction to this crisis on Monday was to stand up and repeat the line that he's said over and over and over again throughout this campaign. I quote, "The fundamentals of our economy are strong."

Now, now, his campaign must've realized that probably this wasn't the smartest thing to say on the day of a financial meltdown, so they sent him back a few hours later to clean up his remarks.

But it sounds like he got a little carried away, because yesterday, John McCain actually said that, if he's president, he'll take on, and I quote, "the old-boys network in Washington." I'm not making this up.

This is somebody who's been in Congress for 26 years, who put seven of the most powerful Washington lobbyists in charge of his campaign, and now he tells us that he's the one who's going to take on the old-boys network. The old-boys network? In the McCain campaign, that's called a staff meeting.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, followed on that line of attack during a rally in Maumee, Ohio.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D), Delaware: All of a sudden, it's, "My goodness, there's greed on Wall Street." My goodness, we need common sense regulation. My goodness!

Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, this is a simple, simple choice people have. It's a choice between those who think that the marketplace, and the corporations, and the wealthy of America should go unfettered and have no regulation and those of us who think there should be commonsense rules to protect transparency, so people can see the ability to know where your dollar is going, how things are changing.

Folks, if John McCain admitted the truth, the truth of what's going on, if he admitted what has happened here, he'd be forced to stop doing the same things over and over again.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In response to the worsening financial situation, both campaigns released new television ads today, and both took the same approach: having the nominees speak directly to the camera.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: This isn't just a string of bad luck. The truth is that, while you've been living up to your responsibilities, Washington has not. That's why we need change, real change.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: You, the American workers, are the best in the world. But your economic security has been put at risk by the greed of Wall Street. That's unacceptable.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This campaign is likely to stay focused on the economy as the nation's financial troubles deepen.