From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
DAYTON, OH -- As part of a coordinated multimedia assault, Barack Obama today blasted John McCain for his proposal to have the government buy up bad mortgages, saying it would reward reckless lenders and leave taxpayers to foot the bill.
The tough new comments were accompanied by a new television ad airing on national cable that calls into question McCain's judgment in proposing his plan and says it would bring "more of the same," a common theme of Obama's attacks. The Democratic nominee said the next president would have to manage an economic recovery, and he asked the audience of some 8,500 people filling a minor league baseball stadium to ask themselves whether that president would be looking out for them.
"Will that president be looking out for banks, will that president be looking out for CEOs or will that president be looking out for the workers, for the families of Dayton, OH?," he said. "That's the question you've gotta ask."
Obama added that McCain's mortgage plan -- which would order the Treasury Department to buy up bad mortgages at face value, rather than at a discount -- would use taxpayer dollars to reward irresponsible lenders and make it more likely that such lenders would "keep up their bad behavior."
Returning to another argument his campaign has been making in recent days, Obama said that the way McCain rolled out his mortgage plan showed the Arizona senator is "erratic." He said McCain's plan would have originally required banks to take a loss on the sour debt, but that he changed his mind overnight so that taxpayers, not banks, would take the loss. Obama called the change the latest in a series of "shifting positions" McCain had taken on this issue and others.
"His first response to this crisis in March was that homeowners shouldn't get any help at all. Then, a few weeks ago, he put out a plan that basically ignored homeowners. Now, in the course of 12 hours, he's ended up with a plan that punishes taxpayers, rewards banks, and won't solve our housing crisis," he said. "This is the kind of erratic behavior we've been seeing from McCain."
He repeated one of his favorite anti-McCain quips, telling the audience that on the first day of the economic crisis a few weeks ago, his opponent said the economy was fundamentally sound, only to say the country was in crisis two hours later.
"I don't think we can afford that kind of erratic and uncertain leadership in these uncertain times.," he said. "We need steady leadership in the White House. We need a President we can trust in times of crisis."
Obama said the idea of having the government buy up some troubled mortgages was not new and that he had proposed something similar several weeks ago, but he stressed that such a program should be limited in scope and make sure the government did not reward reckless lenders by overpaying for the mortgages.
The McCain campaign responded that GOP nominee's mortgage plan "represents absolutely no new expense to the taxpayer, but simply refocuses priorities to more directly assist the homeowners who are hurting instead of greed on Wall Street."
"This is just the latest example of Barack Obama putting politics above the national interest," McCain Spokesman Tucker Bounds continued, in an email. "And his utter inability to be straight with the American people. The only thing the American people can trust about Barack Obama is that he's too big a risk in a time of crisis."
The event at the stadium -- home to the Dayton Dragons -- was the first stop of a two-day, five-city bus tour through Ohio meant to focus on jobs. But apart from the comments on mortgages, Obama's speech was standard stump material. He painted himself as a "president that works for you" and spoke generally about jobs, saying his plans would extend unemployment benefits, provide tax breaks for small businesses and start ups to help them create jobs, create five million clean energy jobs and two million infrastructure jobs.