WASHINGTON – With the deepening U.S. economic crisis rippling around the globe, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain seem to agree the question facing voters is: Who do you trust?
In commercials and appearances the day after their second debate, the presidential rivals portrayed each other as filled with falsehoods while courting voters weighing who can best lead the nation – if not the world – out of financial turmoil. Markets underwent another day of distress Wednesday.
“All we heard from Sen. McCain was more of the same Bush economics that led us into this mess,” Obama said in Indianapolis. “He thinks we won’t notice” downsides of his health care proposals, but “we’re not going to be hoodwinked. We’re not going to be bamboozled. We’re not going to let him get away with it.”
In Bethlehem, Pa., McCain shot back: “I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to American people.” And, McCain said, if he ever did, he “probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician.” On taxes, health care and subprime mortgages, McCain said Obama “won’t tell you” his real record.
On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve and five other central banks on both sides of the Atlantic implemented a coordinated emergency interest rate cut, but the move supplied only a short-lived bounce to world markets. Major stock indexes on Wall Street and in Britain, Germany and France all ended the day down again.
In separate statements as the day began, Obama and McCain applauded the Fed’s action. Each portrayed himself as the only one on the side of anxious Americans watching the economic upheaval drain their retirement accounts and hinder their ability to get loans.
“I am committed to protecting the American worker in this crisis,” McCain said. He promoted his plan, announced at the debate the night before, which would direct the Treasury Department to buy up bad home mortgages by using nearly half the $700 billion from the recent bailout package. “I will get the economy back on track,” McCain added.
Initially, Obama sought to reclaim a piece of that proposal. He previously had said the government should consider doing just that, and on Wednesday said the Treasury Department officials “should use the authority they already have to purchase troubled assets, including mortgages.” He also renewed his call for a second economic stimulus package for the middle class, saying: “More urgent and vigorous action is necessary to stem this crisis.”
Polls consistently show Obama has an edge over McCain on the question of who would best handle the economy and the current crisis.
But an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll last month also showed that more people view McCain as honest and ethical.
Judging by history, McCain’s government mortgage buying plan may not change the trajectory of the campaign.
“When times are really bad, voters are looking to put the other team in power and kick the current guys out,” said Thomas Mann, a scholar at the Brookings Institution think tank. “They’re not evaluating specific proposals for the economy. They’re looking for reassurance and evaluating whether the candidate of the other party looks trustworthy.”