Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain, unleashing a series of vicious attacks on his Democratic rival Senator Barack Obama, called his presidential opponent a liar as he ratcheted up the campaign’s hostile tone on the eve of the second presidential debate yesterday.
Faced with a drop in the polls linked to the US’ sliding economic fortunes, McCain and running mate Alaska Governor Sarah Palin issued a dizzying series of attacks on Monday after Obama fought back by resurrecting McCain’s links to a financial scandal two decades ago.
In an angry speech in New Mexico, McCain blamed Obama for Congress’ failure on a first vote to pass the US$700 billion financial bailout for the US financial system, sidestepping the fact that fellow Republicans were primarily responsible for rejecting the measure.
Obama has said McCain’s Republican philosophy and his support for the administration of US President George W. Bush’s handling of market regulation were behind the huge economic mess that threatens to cripple the US and world economies as credit dries up and huge financial institutions fail.
“I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed. But the truth is I was the one who called at the time for tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that could have helped prevent this crisis from happening in the first place,” McCain said.
Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were deeply involved in the subprime mortgage crisis that set the financial meltdown in motion.
McCain also suggested Obama is a mysterious figure who cannot be trusted.
“Who is the real Barack Obama?” McCain said to a cheering crowd. “Ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults.”
The extreme negativity and attacks on Obama’s character began over the weekend when Palin said Obama sees the US as so imperfect “that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,” a reference to 1960s-era radical Bill Ayers.
The Obama campaign was e-mailing a 13-minute Web “documentary” about McCain’s involvement with convicted thrift owner Charles Keating, calling the episode “a window into McCain’s economic past, present and future.”
Obama surrogates had warned a day earlier that the Keating affair would be used against McCain after Palin tried to tie the Democratic candidate’s association with Ayers.
Just months into his Senate career, in the late 1980s, McCain made what he has called “the worst mistake of my life.” He participated in two meetings with banking regulators on behalf of Keating, a friend, campaign contributor and savings and loan financier who was later convicted of securities fraud.
The Senate Ethics Committee investigated five senators’ relationships with Keating. It cited McCain for a lesser role than the others, but faulted his “poor judgment.”
Obama, in a speech on Sunday in North Carolina, said his opponent and his aides “are gambling that he can distract you with smears rather than talk to you about substance. They’d rather try to tear our campaign down than lift this country up.”
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