JIM LEHRER: Now, what the presidential candidates had to say as they campaigned today. We begin with Republican John McCain. He took questions from Chick-fil-A employees at their corporate headquarters in Atlanta.
RALLY ATTENDEE: My question is, what immediate plans would you make to avoid a recession? And if we are already in a recession, what plans would you make to get us out of that?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: The main factor out there is that Americans are hurting right now. And they don’t care too much whether it’s technically a recession or not.
So I would say that, oh, it’s very likely, and more and more economists are saying that we are probably, quote, “in a recession.”
I think the fact of the matter is that there are many American families who are hurting very badly, particularly in those states like Ohio, Michigan, parts of Illinois, those states that really relied on manufacturing jobs and saw those jobs leave.
And we, as a nation, as I said earlier, have not done enough to help those workers find new employment, new technology, new training, new education, and we’ve got to do a tremendous amount more in that respect.
And, again, I don’t think it means big government programs. The strength of America’s education system in America today is our community colleges. Our community colleges can design and implement training and education programs to provide employees for Chick-fil-A.
They can provide drivers; they can provide computer people; they can provide all of them. And so we’ve got to address that issue, whether we are in a recession or not.
And the other major problem associated with it — in fact, one of the major factors in it — of course, is people’s inability to keep their homes. And we are seeing in danger of at least a couple more million Americans who own their homes losing their homes.
And we have made some progress, but we’re going to have to look at additional measures, I think, in order to try to ease that burden of people who could afford the payments that they were making before, but saw this dramatic jump in their monthly payments and can’t afford it any more. That’s the part of America that we have to try to hone in on.
Someone who bought a home and left it vacant and speculated, we don’t have a lot of sympathy.
We don’t have a lot of sympathy for those greedy organizations that went around and sold people a home loan mortgage that had worse terms, more onerous financial terms associated with it than they were qualified for. Those people should be punished.
And, finally, a home loan mortgage document, as you know, is about that thick. It should be one page. It should be one page. And in big letters, at the bottom, should be letters that say, “I understand this document.”
JIM LEHRER: John McCain speaking in Atlanta today.
Clinton addresses economic concerns
JIM LEHRER: Next, Democrat Hillary Clinton in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, this morning, ahead of that state's primary on Tuesday.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: We lost 63,000 jobs last month. We've lost 85,000 jobs in the last two months at the start of this year.
The economic policies of the Bush administration are failures. People are out of work, and the work they have doesn't pay what it used to pay. The middle-class and working people are under increased pressure.
Oil hit $104 a barrel. The president said, "Well, I sure wish that they'd drop the price." And they said, "No, we won't, Mr. President." He said he was "disappointed."
I've got to tell you, you will not see me holding hands with the Saudis. You'll see me holding them accountable for what they do to the oil price and to our country.
We've got to start standing up for ourselves, and that means standing up against the oil companies and the oil-producing countries that have basically had us over the barrel. It's time we said, "Enough."
We're going to figure out why these prices go up so fast, no matter what's happening in the global marketplace. And we're going to begin to get serious about homegrown energy, right here in Mississippi, putting Americans to work.
That will be good for our security; that will be good for our environment; but, most importantly, that will be good to the economy. Because here's what I predict to you: You know, if we are serious about a new energy plan, we will change the behavior of the oil-producing countries.
You all know how to boil a frog, don't you? You know, if you drop a frog in hot water, it jumps right out. If you put it in cold water and you turn up the heat, pretty soon you've got a boiled frog. We're starting to act like boiled frogs.
When George Bush became president, oil was at $20 a barrel. Gas is heading towards $4 a gallon. We've just been sitting in that cold water, and it gets a little warmer, and we get pushed around, and we don't do much about it.
Well, here's what I will do as your president. I will say, "We've had enough." We are going to have an energy policy that makes us independent of foreign oil.
And I'll tell you what the oil-producing countries will do. They'll go, "Oh, my goodness, we can't let that frog jump out of this pot, so let's drop the price for a while and kind of take their mind of it."
Now, their idea of dropping the price won't be to go back to $20; it'll be to go back to $70. Well, this time we are not going to be fooled. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on us. We're going to be in charge of our energy destiny starting in 2009.
JIM LEHRER: Hillary Clinton speaking today in Mississippi.
Obama's message of change
JIM LEHRER: And rival Barack Obama rallied supporters this afternoon in Casper, Wyoming, a day ahead of that state's Democratic caucuses.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: People ask me, "What do I mean by change?" So let me be very specific about what I mean by change. And this is a town hall meeting, so I want to spend time talking to you. I'm not going to give a long speech.
But I want to be very specific about what I mean by this. When I'm talking about change, I'm talking about making sure that we don't have a government that is run by special interests, that we don't have a government that is run by lobbyists, that we have a White House that is listening to the American people and the stories of hardship and struggle that they're going through right now.
Because all across the country I'm hearing from people, and they tell me their stories. You can read the papers, but even before Wall Street figured out that our economy was having problems, you heard it from your neighbors and your co-workers.
People who'd worked in factories for 20 years suddenly see their jobs shipped overseas, and they're left trying to figure out how they're going to make ends meet, working for $7 bucks an hour at a local fast food joint with a family to support.
All across this country, you talk to people who are fearful of losing their homes, because they got caught up in some predatory loan because you had the mortgage-lending industry spending $185 million to prevent regulation that would have stopped some of these lending practices that have gotten people in a hole.
I met a couple that had two legally blind foster children in their home. They had taken out a small loan to try to fix up their house. Turned out it was one of these deceptive loans. Their mortgage doubled in two weeks. And now they're having to stop with some of the medicines that they buy to make themselves well just so that they can stay in their home. I hear stories like that all across the country.
So those are the stories I carry with me when I talk about change. That's what I want to change. And what I say to people is I am ready to take this country in a new direction, in a direction where the lobbyists and the special interests are not dominant, where people's voices are heard, where we can actually get Republicans and Democrats to come together once in a while to actually get something done.
But I can't do it by myself. I can't do it without you. I've got to have the American people involved in the process.
JIM LEHRER: Barack Obama in Casper, Wyoming, today.