Obama hits McCain on lobbyists, Social Security

September 20, 2008 3:54:23 PM PDT
Democrat Barack Obama criticized Republican presidential rival John McCain on Saturday for his past advocacy of deregulation, ties to lobbyists and support for privatizing the Social Security system many of the state's elderly residents depend on to make a living.The Democratic presidential nominee used McCain's words to portray him as an opponent of federal regulation of the banking industry.

McCain, a 26-year veteran of Congress with a long history of opposition to such regulation, now says more controls are needed to prevent a repeat of the financial turmoil that sent the stock market plunging this past week.

"There's only one candidate who's called himself 'fundamentally a deregulator' when deregulation is part of the problem," Obama said during an appearance at Bethune-Cookman University, arranged to highlight his campaign's effort to reach out to women voters.

Obama quoted McCain as saying in trade publication that opening the health insurance market to more vigorous competition nationwide, as was done with the banking industry during the past decade, would provide more choices.

"So let me get this straight. He wants to run health care like they've been running Wall Street," Obama said. "Well, Senator, I know some folks on Main Street who aren't going to think that's a good idea."

McCain's campaign said Obama was resorting to scare tactics to win votes.

McCain has criticized Obama this week, including in television ads, for ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two faltering mortgage giants that government took over earlier this month. But Obama said McCain is the one who's campaign is filled with current or former Fannie and Freddie lobbyists.

"There's only one candidate whose campaign is being run by seven of Washington's most powerful lobbyists, and folks, it isn't me," Obama said, adding that he doesn't "take a dime" from Washington lobbyists and special interests. He does, however, accept money from non-Washington lobbyists.

"So when John McCain says that lobbyists 'won't even get past the front gate' at his White House, my question is, 'Who's going to stop them?' Those seven lobbyists," Obama said.

Obama continued his assault at a noisy outdoor rally in Jacksonville before 12,000 cheering backers, with another 8,000 outside the rally. He argued that McCain has no solutions for the nation's eocnomic crisis.

"His solution was to blame me for it," Obama said. "I would say Sen. McCain is a little panicked."

He accused McCain of relentlessly pushing deregulation, the sort of loose controls many blame for the turmoil on Wall Street.

"John McCain said he wants to do for health care what Washington did for bankers," Obama said. "This election is a chance to stand up and say enough is enough."

On Social Security, Obama said he'll protect and strengthen the program, while McCain wants to privatize it.

McCain has been an advocate of a proposal to allow workers to take the money they pay in Social Security taxes and direct it to private accounts invested on Wall Street. President Bush pushed such a plan in 2005 but dropped it after Congress pushed back.

Obama said that given events of the past week, with several major investment firms either allowed to fail or be taken over by the government, "millions would've watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes."

"I know Sen. McCain is talking about a 'casino culture' on Wall Street, but the fact is, he's the one who wants to gamble with your life savings," Obama said.

McCain's campaign accused Obama of trying to scare people into voting for him.

"John McCain is 100 percent committed to preserving Social Security benefits for seniors and Barack Obama knows it," said McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. "Barack Obama has supported alternative private accounts himself which makes these reckless attacks a perfect demonstration of his willingness to ignore facts in favor of his own self-promotion."

Obama's target audience Saturday was women voters, a group that has trended Democratic in recent elections but is seen as wavering with McCain's pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, have focused on the faltering economy in recent days, and particularly its effect on women. He focused on his history of being raised by a single mother who once relied on food stamps to make ends meet.

"I know how hard the women of this country are working," Obama said. "I know the anxiety so many of you are feeling right now, as we stand in the midst of the most serious financial crisis of our time."

On the Net:

McCain: http://www.johnmccain.com
Obama: http://www.barackobama.com