NEW YORK - Republican John McCain, buffeted by criticism about his response to Wall Street's financial problems, said Thursday he would fire the SEC chairman and create a special trust to help strengthen weak institutions.
In all but calling for the firing of Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox, McCain turned on a fellow Republican and former 17-year House member who served on committees overseeing investor protection and U.S. capital markets. President Bush appointed Cox in 2005.
McCain also tried to counter Democratic rival Barack Obama as the two White House contenders jockeyed to explain how, as president, they would prevent the sort of financial tremors that have shaken the financial industry and consumer confidence this week.
Economic issues traditionally favor Democrats and were expected to be especially potent for Obama in an election cycle after eight years of a Republican White House and a Congress controlled mostly by the GOP. McCain has a long history of opposing government regulation and receives economic advice from former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, an advocate of free-market principles. In addition, McCain has served on and has been chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which has regulated - and deregulated - vast parts of the economy.
"The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public's trust," McCain told a rally in this battleground state. "If I were president today, I would fire him."
Cox chalked up McCain's rhetoric to the pressure of running a political campaign.