McCain Shifts Opposition on Government Bailout of Insurance Giant


Asked whether he agreed with the government bailout of insurance giant American International Group on today's "Good Morning America," Sen. John McCain answered ambiguously, in stark contrast to a Tuesday interview where he adamantly opposed it.

"I didn't want to do that. And I don't think anybody I know wanted to do that. But there are literally millions of people whose retirement, whose investment, whose insurance were at risk here," the Republican presidential nominee told ABC News' Robin Roberts, sounding somewhat accepting of the Fed's action on AIG.

"They were going to have their lives destroyed because of the greed and excess and corruption," McCain said.

But on Tuesday, the day following Lehman Brothers' collapse after the government declined to bail out the 158-year-old bank, McCain was opposed to the notion that the government should act to save AIG, teetering on the brink of collapse itself.

McCain was adamant in an interview with "The Today Show." "No, I do not believe that the American taxpayer should be on the hook for AIG, and I'm glad that the Secretary [Henry] Paulson has apparently taken the same line."

NBC's Matt Lauer pressed McCain: "So, if we get to the point, in the middle of the week when AIG might have to file for bankruptcy, they're on their own?"

McCain replied, "Well, they're on their own. We cannot have the taxpayers bail out AIG or anybody else. This is something that we're going to have to work through."

Language in an e-mail statement today from McCain on the financial markets and AIG seemed to follow suit.

McCain said any actions "should be to protect the millions of Americans who hold insurance policies, retirement plans and other accounts," and in the next sentence insisted, "We must not bailout the management and speculators who created this mess."

Doug Holtz-Eakin, a senior economic adviser to McCain, sought to clarify McCain's position on the bailot. "The senator supports the particulars of the action but regrets that circumstances forced us to actually have to do it."

In his interview today on "Good Morning America," McCain also defended his idea for a 9/11 Commission-type probe into the current Wall Street crisis.

"This is one of the most severe crisis in modern times. So, we've gotta get the best minds in America together to say, look, not only did this happen but we've all gotta work together, Republican and Democrat. This calls for bipartisanship. This calls for patriotism. This calls for saving the economy of the people," McCain said.

Calling for oversight and painting himself as a reformer, McCain continued, "We have to have transparency. ... We have to combine these regulatory alphabet soup organizations, we have to make them work. They need a chief executive who knows how to crack the whip and knows how to reform Washington and reform the way that we do business."