ABC News’ Teddy Davis, Hope Ditto, and Rigel Anderson Report: Former Iowa Republican Rep. Jim Leach endorsed Barack Obama on Tuesday, saying that the Illinois senator’s platform is rooted in "old American values that are as much a part of the Republican as the Democratic tradition."
"Barack Obama’s platform is a call for change," said Leach. "But the change that he so gracefully is articulating is more renewal than departure."
Asked if Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., will be joining "Republicans for Obama," Leach said, "I think we’ll wait for Chuck to make that announcement. I just hope that he’s considered for [Obama's] Veep."
Leach announced that he was backing the presumptive Democratic nominee while participating in the conference call launch of "Republicans for Obama," a group that is designing a website contrasting the records of the presidential candidates.
Leach was joined on the call by two other Republican opponents of the Iraq war: former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Rita Hauser, a lawyer who served on President George W. Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board.
Chafee, who left the GOP in March so that he could vote for Obama in the Rhode Island Democratic primary, criticized McCain for changing his stance on the Bush tax cuts.
"I served with McCain and we were the only two Republicans to vote against the Bush tax cuts," said Chafee, referring to a Senate vote in 2001. "He says now he would make them permanent. It’s a different John McCain."
The former Rhode Island senator also charged that the Bush administration has damaged U.S. credibility on torture, wiretapping, and carbon-dioxide regulation.
Hauser said she wants to see the war in Iraq ended in a responsible way, adding that she fears that McCain would represent a "third Bush term."
"It’s difficult to walk away from your nominee but you have to put your country first," said Hauser.
After three decades in Congress, Leach was defeated in 2006 in a major upset by Democrat Dave Loebsack. Following his loss, Leach became a professor at Princeton and then was tapped by Harvard to become the interim director of the Kennedy School of Government after former director Jeanne Shaheen left her post to challenge Sen. John Sununu in New Hampshire.
The McCain campaign responded to Leach’s endorsement by urging reporters to ask the former Iowa congressman about Obama’s criticism of Leach’s financial deregulation bill (Gramm-Leach-Bliley) as a lobbyist-driven deal that contributed to the subprime lending crisis. Leach’s measure repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, opening up competition among banks, securities companies, and insurance companies.
During a March interview with Bloomberg’s Al Hunt, Obama said the repeal of Glass-Steagall was not well-thought through.
"You had $300 million worth of lobbying done by the financial institutions," said Obama. "They wanted to compete because they were seeing big profits in some of these areas. It wasn’t necessarily the best thing to assure that U.S. consumers were protected or that the financial markets remained stable and sound."
Asked if he thinks Glass-Steagall should be restored, Obama said, "Well, no. The argument is not to go back to the regulatory framework of the 1930′s because . . . the financial markets have changed substantially."
"The question is," he added, "how do we build new regulatory systems that are flexible, that reflect new realities, that aren’t going to put undue constraints on innovation in the financial markets, but nevertheless will encourage the transparency and accountability that we need and will maintain trust between investors and counterparties and the banks so that you don’t see what’s happening right now, which is a complete lock-up of the credit system. . . ."