Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama said Monday the upheaval on Wall Street was "the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression" and blamed it on policies that he said Republican rival John McCain supports.
"This country can't afford another four years of this failed philosophy," Obama said after the shock-wave announcements that financial giant Lehman Brothers was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while titan Merrill Lynch was being bought by Bank of America for about $50 billion.
Obama's statement, issued as he prepared to fly to Colorado to begin a swing through contested Western states, was intended to serve two purposes: to link McCain with the unpopular presidency of George W. Bush and to express sympathy with the anxiety of most Americans who say the economy is issue No. 1 in the election.
"The challenges facing our financial system today are more evidence that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren't minding the store," Obama said in a statement. "Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression."
"I certainly don't fault Sen. McCain for these problems," Obama said, "but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to."
In a presidential race turning increasingly negative, Obama also drew on editorial comments from U.S. newspapers and magazines to accuse McCain of running a dishonest campaign with some of the "sleaziest ads" ever seen.
Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, said McCain was "launching a low blow a day" and went on to say the Republican candidate stands "with George Bush firmly in the corner of the wealthy and well-connected."
Obama's campaign launched a new television commercial that aggressively pushes back against charges by McCain, the GOP presidential nominee. Obama has been under increasing pressure from Democrats to strike back harder at McCain, who has taken a slight lead in national polls. Some leading Republicans faulted both presidential campaigns Sunday for the increasingly negative tone of their advertising.
Former Bush political adviser Karl Rove said McCain and Obama had both shaded the truth in campaign advertising.
"McCain has gone, in some of his ads, similarly gone one step too far in sort of attributing to Obama things that are, you know, beyond the 100-percent truth test," Rove told "Fox News Sunday."
The Obama campaign has complained especially about an ad that declares Obama supports sex education for kindergartners. He supported legislation that would teach age-appropriate sex education to kindergartners, including information on rejecting advances by sexual predators.
"Both campaigns are making a mistake, and that is they are taking whatever their attacks are and going one step too far," Rove said. "They don't need to attack each other in this way."
Obama's new commercial opens with a picture of McCain saying, "I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land." The announcer then asks, "What happened to John McCain?"
The ad uses brief phrases from editorials and commentators from The Washington Post, Time magazine, the Chicago Tribune, CBS and The New Republic: "one of the sleaziest ads ever seen," "truly vile," "dishonest smears," "exposed as a lie," "a disgraceful, dishonest campaign." It concludes, "It seems `deception' is all he's got left."
The McCain campaign also has put out an Internet ad accusing Obama of calling Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin a pig when he used the phrase putting "lipstick on a pig" to criticize the GOP ticket as trying to make a bad situation look better. McCain supporters said Obama was slyly alluding to Palin's description of herself as a pit bull in lipstick, but there was nothing in his remarks to support the claim.
Biden, in an appearance planned Monday in St. Clair Shores, Mich., tried to link McCain with President Bush.
"If you're ready for four more years of George Bush, John McCain is your man," Biden said in prepared remarks. "Just as George Herbert Walker Bush was nicknamed `Bush 41' and his son is known as `Bush 43,' John McCain could easily become known as `Bush 44.'"
Excerpts of Biden's speech were released in advance by the Obama-Biden campaign.
With a passing reference to McCain's sacrifices as a Vietnam prisoner of war, Biden said: "America needs more than a great solider, America needs a wise leader. Take a hard look at the positions John has taken for the past 26 years, on the economy, on health care, on foreign policy, and you'll see why I say that John McCain is just four more years of George Bush."
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