Obama on Attacking Keating Attacks on McCain: ‘We Don’t Throw the First Punch, But We’ll Throw the Last’

By Natalie Gewargis

Oct 6, 2008 2:10pm

In Asheville, NC, this afternoon, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., made a statement about today’s bleak economic news, hammered Sen. John McCain’s campaign tactics, and refused to answer questions about McCain’s role in the Keating 5 scandal — which his campaign is discussing quite a bit — before getting into his car and speeding off to get some barbecue at 12 Bones Smokehouse.

"Before we go get some barbecue I want to make a statement on the economy,” Obama said.

"Obviously, we woke up this morning and saw that the markets are still in turmoil.  Not only are we seeing the stock market go down, but there is still great danger of the credit markets locking up and we have seen the contagion is spreading to all parts of the globe.  Europe is having some of the problems that we are having here in the states.  Asia is being affected
 
"It is a reminder that the rescue package that was passed last week is not the end of our efforts to deal with the economy. It is just the beginning.
   
"I think it is very important for Secretary Paulson and Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Bernanke to move swiftly and try to restore confidence as quickly as possible to effectuate the plans, based on the authority given to them by Congress. I think it is still critical for us to move forward on an economic stimulus package that can provide people some relief from high gas prices.  Food prices.  Help states and local governments maintain their payrolls.  I think we have to extend unemployment insurance after the statistics showing that 159,000 additional jobs were lost just last month.
   
"And we are going to have to then move on an aggressive plan to deal with some of the underlying structural problems in the economy, including the continuing decline in the housing market.
   
"Now, Sen. McCain and I have a debate tomorrow.  And obviously, the American people are going to be anxious to hear from one of the two people who is going to be the next president and responsible for dealing with this economic mess and what their plans are. I was a little surprised over the last couple of days to hear Sen. McCain say — or Sen. McCain’s campaign say — that we want to turn the page on discussions about the economy and campaign, a member of Sen. McCain’s campaign saying today that if we talk about the economic crisis, we lose.
 
"I have got news for the McCain campaign: the American people are losing right now.  They are losing their jobs. They are losing their health care.  They are losing their homes and their savings.  I cannot imagine anything more important to talk about than the economic crisis, and the notion that we would want to brush that aside and engage in the usual political shenanigans and smear tactics that have come to characterize too many campaigns, I think, is not what the American people are looking for.  So, I am going to keep on talking about the economy.  I am going to keep on talking about what we need to do to strengthen the middle class and get our credit markets settled down.  I have confidence we are going to solve this problem, but we are not going to solve it with business as usual.  And we need fundamental change, and that is why I am running as president.  Alright. "

Obama was twice asked by the press pool, “Why did you bring up the Keating Five?” but Obama ignored the questions and got in his car. 

**

He wasn’t so reticent on the "Tom Joyner Morning Show," when the host asked about the McCain-Palin campaign’s attack on him for "palling around with terrorists," namely former Weather Underground member William Ayers, currently an education professor in Chicago.

"First of all, just the facts," Obama told Joyner. "Mr. Ayers is somebody who lives in Chicago, he is a professor at the University of Chicago — University of Illinois, teaches education, and he engaged in these despicable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old.  I served on a board with him, and so now, they are trying to use this as guilt by association.  And as you’ve said, they explicitly stated what they want to do is to change the topic, because they don’t want to talk about the economy and the failed policies of the last eight years.  So, I think the American people deserve better.  I think they deserve a last four weeks that talks about the economic crisis, about the 159 jobs that were lost –- 159,000 jobs that were lost just last week — last month. 

"But if John McCain wants to have a character debate, then I am happy to have that debate, because Mr. McCain’s record, despite him calling himself a maverick, actually shows that he is continually somebody who relies on lobbyists for big oil, big corporations, and that he makes decisions oftentimes based on what these lobbyists tell him to do.  And that, I think, is going to be a lot more relevant to the American people than what somebody — who is tangentially related to me — did when I was 8 years old."

Joyner noted that the Obama campaign launched a Web site, keatingeconomics.com, going after McCain for his role in the S&L crisis of the late 1980s/early 1990s, and his role in the Keating Five scandal. "Of course, Charles Keating was a savings and loan guy out of Arizona," Joyner said. "Doesn’t this put you in the position of going negative, taking away your message of running a different kind of campaign?"

Said Obama: "One of the things we’ve done during this campaign: we don’t throw the first punch, but we’ll throw the last.  Because if the American people don’t get the information that is relevant about these candidates and, instead, in the last four weeks, all they are hearing about are smears and Swift Boat tactics, that can have an impact on the election.  We have seen it before, and this election is too important to be sitting on the sidelines.  If Sen. McCain wants to focus on the issues, then that is what we focus on.  But if Sen. McCain wants to have a character debate, that is one that we’re willing to have."

**

At 12 Bones Smokehouse, he ordered takeout for his campaign staff: Brisket, 2 racks of ribs, pulled pork, a barbecue platter, a veggie platter, six sweet teas, corn pudding, macaroni and cheese, and a double order of collards.

- jpt

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