September 19, 2008 / 7:20 PM / 11 years ago

Obama backs recovery plan, says McCain "in a panic"

CORAL GABLES, Florida (Reuters) - Barack Obama huddled with his economic advisers on Friday and backed government efforts to prop up a teetering financial system, but he said he would wait to release his own detailed plan to stem the turmoil on Wall Street.

Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) talks with media next to Citigroup Director and senior advisor Robert Rubin after a meeting with economic advisors at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida September 19, 2008. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Democratic presidential candidate praised efforts by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to rescue endangered financial firms and keep credit markets solvent and said “even bolder and more decisive action” was necessary.

But the Illinois senator said he would not unveil his own specific proposals until government officials and Congress had concluded their work on a broad rescue plan that could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

“You don’t do it in a day. We’ve got to do it in an intelligent, systematic, thoughtful fashion,” he told reporters after meeting his advisers outside Miami.

The tumult on Wall Street has dominated the campaign for the November 4 presidential election this week as Obama and Republican rival John McCain compete to prove their economic leadership and judgment.

Obama said the government must be given broad authority to stabilize the markets, but any rescue plan must also include new oversight and regulations of financial institutions while ensuring public money is replaced as quickly as possible with private assets.

He did not say what he thought the ultimate cost of a bailout would be, but said he did not think it would short-circuit his plans for a middle-class tax cut or other proposals aimed at easing the burden for workers.


As he talked to reporters he was flanked by Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, former treasury secretaries under President Bill Clinton. Obama also met with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and Laura Tyson, former chairwoman of Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Obama has been scathing in his criticism of his rival’s response to the crisis, including McCain’s statement earlier in the week that the fundamentals of the economy were strong and his call for a commission to investigate the financial collapse.

McCain said on Friday he would require the Treasury Department to have a specific blueprint for guaranteeing loans, although he did not specify the criteria, and he called for a Treasury group to work to strengthen weak financial institutions before they became insolvent.

Obama said McCain’s proposal skimped on the details but he was glad to see they agreed that “at some point we are going to need some institutionalized structure to deal with the underlying problems of bad mortgages and the bad assets that some of these markets have.”

“There’s going to be a lot of time for us to be in a big argument about how some of these future plans should be structured,” he said.

Obama told a cheering crowd in Florida, a key battleground in the November election campaign, that McCain was “in a panic” as he tried to deal with the growing economic crisis.

“At this point he seems to be willing to say anything or do anything,” he said.

A group of black protesters holding signs reading “Blacks Against Obama” disrupted Obama’s speech in Coral Gables but were drowned out by the crowd’s chants of “yes we can.”

They were led out by police after a brief interruption.

Editing by Ross Colvin and Jackie Frank

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