"This is a crisis of unprecedented proportions. In many ways it's the same situation we faced in the Great Depression. . . . Right now should we be bailing out all these institutions? Or should we be helping the homeowner in America? We may have to do both, but I'd like to put the homeowner first," McCain said.
McCain's plan would cost an estimated $300 billion -- money, the Republican contender says that could be "part of the $700 billion [economic rescue package], [or] new money, if necessary."
Clinton spokeswoman Kathleen Strand reacted to word McCain had brought up the Clinton proposal in the interview, saying it was offensive to suggest his plan was the same as the Clinton plan. "In the debate, John McCain took credit for coming up with a idea about mortgages, calling it his own proposal. It's offensive to suggest the new McCain plan is what Senator Clinton proposed. She and Senator Obama are focused on helping struggling homeowners and holding bank lenders responsible. The Bush-McCain strategy to sit back and do nothing is wreaking havoc on our economy. Senator McCain's new plan calls for bailing out and rewarding irresponsible bank and mortgage lenders, while sticking taxpayers with the bill," Strand said in a statement.
Gibson asked how McCain would explain to voters why the country needs to buy up these mortgages as opposed to helping those struggling to pay their existing home mortgage.
"Because if your neighbor's home value continues to decline, so is yours. Your life savings -- and I appreciate that you were able to make your payments and struggles that you had. But if your neighbor's home continues to plummet in value and sits empty, then it's going to affect your home as well. So we're doing this for you as well. And hopefully we reach a floor on the home values, and yours and your neighbor's homes can increase in value," McCain said.
McCain defended the need for swift action on the economy but had sharp words for those taking credit for the the economic rescue plan, which he referred to as a "bailout."
"Because of the corruption and cronyism in Washington, no one acted. And it's fascinating to me that the same people that are taking credit for the bailout, the Democrats, [Sen.] Chris Dodd, [Rep.] Barney Frank and others, were defending Fannie and Freddie and the corrupt practices they were doing. I'll tell you. Life's funny," McCain said.
McCain called Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae -- mortgage lenders now owned by the government -- "the catalyst for this catastrophe," but said now is the time for measured leadership.
"I've never been accused of a lack of passion," McCain told Gibson in their exclusive interview, "But the point is [the American people] also want firm, solid, measured, mature leadership. Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn't go on the radio and start yelling. He assured the American people. Right now the American people need seasoned and experienced leadership. That's what I offer."
Gibson challenged McCain on whether either candidate has been able to effectively sell their economic message in a clear, concise way.