Both Democratic candidates veered off their scheduled speeches Monday to address the jittery U.S. economy and slammed President Bush for not doing enough to stop the mortgage lending crisis from spilling over into the wider economy.
After delivering what her campaign advertised as a "major" speech on the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in which Clinton touted her commitment to ending the war, the New York senator said that a year ago she'd warned that the president's plan to address the home foreclosure crisis didn't go far enough.
"I would do anything to start getting this under control, as I have been calling now for a year, because we are seeing the consequences. You know when I first called for a lot of these steps I was ridiculed by the Bush administration and, frankly, by my Democratic opponent," Clinton said. "Now we are in the soup, and we better get ourselves out of it before the consequences are drastic."
Clinton said that if she were president she would bring Congress back from its two-week Easter recess to find a solution.
"We are in a very dangerous period in the economy. We need vigilance and we need leadership, and we've got to get it from this administration," Clinton told reporters in Washington in an impromptu press conference following her speech.
On a Clinton campaign conference call about Iraq, reporters peppered members of Clinton's team with questions about her economic plan.
"We would not be here today if President Bush had listened to her a year ago and had taken effective action," Clinton policy director Neera Tanden told reporters, referring to Clinton's proposal to freeze foreclosures.
Clinton's communications director contrasted her economic platform with that of presumed Republican candidate Sen. John McCain', R-Ariz.
"In the fall there will be a major debate over what we do to get this economy back on track, and John McCain is welcome to defend seven years of the Bush economic policies, but we believe that we need to go in a different direction and will do so," Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson said Monday, referring to McCain's support of making Bush's tax cuts permanent.
Campaigning in Pennsylvania Monday ahead of the April 22 primary, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., said that the economy wasn't working for average Americans, even before the recent crisis in the financial industry.
"Wages, incomes, they haven't gone up over the last seven years. Corporate profits were great, Wall Street was doing fine, but ordinary folks were struggling. And so if you're really ready for change, we can't just tinker around the edges. We've got to bring around a fundamental change to our economy," Obama said.
Like Clinton, Obama blasted Bush for giving tax cuts to businesses and high-income Americans.
"We are going to stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas and start giving tax breaks to companies that invest right here in Pennsylvania and all across America. We're gonna roll back tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans who don't need 'em, and we're even asking for them, and give those tax breaks to hardworking ordinary Americans who deserve them right now," Obama said.
In a statement released earlier by his campaign, Obama also slammed the president for his handling of the economic downturn.