Obama says more work needed for deal

September 25, 2008 5:01:45 PM PDT
Barack Obama on Thursday criticized lawmakers who are holding up a deal on the $700 billion financial bailout plan, saying they need to clarify their objections so an agreement can be reached and the economy saved from further damage. The Democratic presidential nominee spoke in a round of television interviews after a White House meeting also attended by Republican presidential rival John McCain. Obama said he left thinking they will reach a deal, but that some work still needs to be done.

While other Democrats said McCain is part of the problem, Obama would not criticize his opponent directly.

But his spokesman blasted the Republican for an "out of touch response to the economic crisis." Press secretary Bill Burton e-mailed a memo that said McCain has been in full campaign mode despite saying he would suspend his campaign to deal with the crisis.

"He just turned a national crisis into an occasion to promote his campaign," Burton wrote. "And it does nothing to help advance this critical legislation to protect the American people during this time of economic crisis."

Obama, trying to appear above the politics being waged between the two camps, said that at the White House meeting he tried to understand the objections to the approach being taken by congressional leaders and the Bush administration.

"The question I asked was, `Well, do we need to start from scratch or are there ways to incorporate some of those concerns?"' Obama said on ABC's "World News." "I think that at this point the president, the secretary of the Treasury and those who are expressing some of these concerns have to provide some clarity."

"Keep in mind House Democrats and Senate Democrats and me and the leadership are all pretty burned up about this thing," Obama said at a news conference after the TV interviews. "This wasn't happening on our watch. We weren't preventing some of the regulatory reforms that might have prevented us from getting here."

Obama said jobs, economic growth, retirement accounts, small businesses and financial markets will all be at risk without a bailout plan. "There are no good options at this point. There are bad options and worse options. Sounds familiar from our discussions of Iraq," Obama said.

Obama said he hopes McCain will go ahead with their debate scheduled for Friday night in Mississippi. McCain said Wednesday they should delay the forum to focus on the crisis. But Obama said on CNN: "My sense is that we can do more than one thing at a time."

He told NBC's "Nightly News" that he'll raise the economy at the debate, even though its focus is supposed to be foreign policy.

"With this looming in the horizon, this has an effect all across the globe," he said. "We can't be strong abroad if we're not strong at home."

Democratic and Republican lawmakers announced a tentative deal at midday Thursday, while Obama was en route to Washington. Obama told the "CBS Evening News" he was not sure what went wrong.

"It's important not to inject presidential politics into this," Obama said. "My preference is to use the phone ... in a way that's not a photo op because I think that sometimes prevents things from getting done. It's amazing what you can get done when you're not looking to try to get credit for it."

An Obama aide says the Illinois senator has been working the phones between campaign events to stay on top of developments in the negotiations and offer his help, speaking daily with Democratic congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

Obama called Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, D-Conn., Thursday morning for an update when Dodd happened to be meeting with Republican Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, working on a deal. Dodd passed the phone to Bennett, and Obama spoke briefly with him as well.

On the Net:

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