From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
RENO, Nev. -- In a sweeping speech in battleground state Nevada, Obama made a direct appeal to the American people and to members of Congress to support the $700 billion rescue plan that failed to pass in the House of Representatives yesterday.
It was the first time since the need for such a rescue became clear that the Democratic nominee explained in direct and explicit terms what a total collapse of the credit markets would mean for ordinary people, many of whom are fiercely opposed to the bailout bill.
Quoting Franklin D. Roosevelt, Obama called on Americans to show the "confidence and courage" that he said were essential to the success of the plan. He asked people to believe in the country even if they are angry or anxious about the current crisis. And he tied the rescue plan to his own agenda, spelling out his plans to cut taxes, make health care and college more affordable and promote clean energy, including clean coal.
With an eye to casting the bailout deal as a time for patriotic action to save the American economy, Obama did not once mention John McCain. He said that now was not a time for politics or for taking credit or laying blame, and he compared the situation to putting out a fire in a neighbor's house so that it would not spread to others. "We've got to make sure that we put the fire out and then go start making sure that these folks stop leaving the stove on," he said. "But right now our job is to put out the fire and we can't forget that."
Obama said this was no longer just a Wall Street crisis, but an American crisis and that failure to pass a rescue plan could mean thousands of businesses could close around the country, millions of jobs could be lost and a long and painful recession could follow.
"Because of the housing crisis -- and nobody's been hit harder by foreclosures in the housing crisis than Nevada -- we are now in a very dangerous situation where financial institutions across this country are afraid to lend money," he told the crowd gathered on a lawn at the University of Nevada at Reno. "If all that meant was the failure of a few big banks on Wall Street, that'd be one thing. But that's not what it means. What it means is that if we do not act, it will be harder for you to get a mortgage for your home or the loans you need to go to college or the loan you need to buy a car to get to work. What it means is that businesses won't be able to get loans they need to open new factories, or hire more workers, or make payroll for the workers they have."
Obama has shown a new energy over the past two days when it comes to speaking about the financial crisis on the stump. Throughout his roughly 35-minute speech today, he used analogies and humor to try to explain the predicament facing the American economy and how it related to them. He told college students that even though they may not have big stock market portfolios, failure to stop this credit crisis would make it harder for them to get a job, buy a house and raise a family.
The senator promised to do all he could to help get a plan passed, saying he had spoken with Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid about the deal today and urging Congress to "do what's right for this country." He also pointed out the proposal he put forward today to try to improve the bill, expanding the FDIC insurance for bank accounts to $250,000, from the current $100,000, something he said would help small businesses make payroll.
When asked why it had taken the Democratic nominee so long to spell out the problem facing the credit markets in clear, relatable terms to voters, a spokesperson said that throughout the week, Obama had sought to take a responsible approach to the crisis and that he could not speak about the consequences of not passing a bill when a deal on the bill had not yet been reached.
"What was clear from yesterday was that people are nervous, people are concerned about what this would mean," said spokesperson Jen Psaki. "Why he's talking about the implications of this not passing is that he wants to convey to the American people that this is something that we need to pass."