NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y Sept. 16, 2008— -- An angry Sen. John McCain indicated today that as president he would launch a 9/11-commission style investigation into what he called "the old-boy network and Washington corruption" that created the current Wall Street crisis and has endangered peoples' savings and retirement funds.
McCain and his White House rival Sen. Barack Obama traded furious accusations and charges Tuesday on the economy as both campaigns jostled for position on the unfolding financial meltdown.
The economy had already been established as the No. 1 issue for voters, but the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the fire sale of Merrill Lynch, and the desperate efforts of American International Group to avoid collapse has rattled Main Street as well as Wall Street.
Watch Wednesday's exclusive interview with Sen. John McCain and Cindy McCain aboard "Good Morning America's" Whistle Stop Express starting at 7 a.m. ET
The future of AIG, the country's largest insurance company, hung in the balance Tuesday. Its stock dropped 61 percent since Monday and the federal government ruled out any taxpayer rescue. McCain said Tuesday he agreed with the decision of the federal government to not intervene with AIG saying taxpayers should not be "on the hook" for AIG's problems.
"We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else. This is something that we're going to have to work through," he said.
McCain's stance on the economy has been under attack from Democrats since he released an ad Monday that said the economy was in crisis, but later gave a speech saying the "fundamentals of our economy are strong." He defended himself Tuesday and laced into a denunciation of corporate greed.
"I said the fundamental of our economy is the American worker. I know that the American worker is the strongest, the best, and most productive and most innovative," McCain, R-Ariz., told ABC's Chris Cuomo on "Good Morning America" Tuesday.
"They've been betrayed by a casino on Wall Street of greedy, corrupt excess -- corruption and excess that has damaged them and their futures," he added.
McCain said he wants an inquiry into what led to the current mess, though he did not offer details.
"We're going to need a '9/11 Commission' to find out what happened and what needs to be fixed," he said. "I warned two years ago that this situation was deteriorating and unacceptable. And the old-boy network and the corruption in Washington is directly involved, and one of the causes of this financial crisis that we're in today. And I know how to fix it, and I know how to get things done."
"Americans are hurting right now, and there's going to be a ripple effect of this financial crisis because of the greed and corruption and excess, and Wall Street treated the American economy like a casino," he continued. "And we can fix it, and we've got to keep people in their homes."
Democrats were not easing up on their assault on McCain's statement that the "fundaments of our economy are strong." Obama released a new television ad that asks, "How can John McCain fix our economy if he doesn't understand it's broken?"
And Obama, campaigning in Golden, Colo., said McCain's proposal for a 9/11 style commission to look into Wall Street's fiscal follies was an attempt by the Republican to "pass the buck."
"This isn't 9/11," Obama said. "We know how we got into this mess. What we need now is leadership that gets us out. I'll provide it. John McCain won't."
Obama's running mate Sen. Joe Biden told CBS's "The Early Show" the Republicans shouldn't be entrusted with the economy again.
"My lord, take a look at what -- who got us in this hole, whose policies," Biden said. "This has been a Republican philosophy of letting Wall Street do what they want and the middle class be damned."
The McCain campaign also tried to laugh off a comment from their senior economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin that McCain was instrumental in developing the Blackberry.
Holtz-Eakin pointed out that McCain, who is ridiculed in an Obama ad for being so unfamiliar with computers that he's never sent an E-mail, is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.
"He did this," Holtz-Eakin said, holding up his BlackBerry. "Telecommunications in the United States, the premiere innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce Committee. So you're looking at the miracle that John McCain helped create. And that's what he did."
McCain is said to have laughed at what his campaign insists was a joke, but the Obama campaign was laughing even harder.
Obama's camp made parallels to former vice president Al Gore's disastrous claim eight years ago that he had invented the Internet.
"If John McCain hadn't said that 'the fundamentals of our economy are strong' on the day of one of our nation's worst financial crises," Obama spokesman Bill Burton emailed reporters, "the claim that he invented the BlackBerry would have been the most preposterous thing said all week."
Sen. Hillary Clinton warned on "GMA" that government rescues of big corporations like Bear Stearns, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may not be enough to stop the fiscal bleeding.
She repeated her proposal for a moratorium on home foreclosures and to freeze interest rates. "If we don't stabilize the home market, then as serious as these bailouts are, they are not going to solve the problem," she said.