GRAND JUNCTION, Colo.—Barack Obama seized on the Wall Street crisis this morning to make the argument that the country can’t afford another four years of Republican rule.
With an arid bluff behind him, Obama called the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the problems with other major financial institutions on Wall Street “a serious, serious situation. As bad as anything we have seen.”
Later in his speech he said, “We just woke up to news of financial disaster and this morning he said the fundamentals of our economy are still strong. Senator McCain, what economy are you talking about?”
He launched into a Clintonesque discussion of "fundamentals."
“What’s more fundamental than knowing that you will have a roof over your head at the end of the day?” he asked.
He compared the current situation to the savings-and-loan crisis, during which, perhaps not coincidentally, McCain received much scrutiny and criticism for his role in that scandal.
He stressed the effect on voters’ lives, and said that Republicans haven’t done enough. “This turmoil is a major threat to our economy,” Obama said, adding, “Today offers more evidence, Colorado, that too many folks in Washington and on Wall Street weren’t minding the store.”
He said the Bush administration had “shredded” consumer protections, encouraged huge bonuses for C.E.O.s, and failed to efficiently and responsibly regulate financial markets.
He said he didn’t hold McCain singularly responsible for the crisis, but said, “I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to. Because it is the same philosophy that we have had for the last eight years.”
Echoing his campaign’s statements, he defined trickle-down economics as, “Hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else,” and added that after years of it, “Instead of prosperity trickling down, the pain has trickled up.”
He outlined his economic plan, from looking for alternative sources of energy, to lowering taxes on the majority of Americans, to changing bankruptcy laws to make sure that pensions are protected, to health insurance to equal pay for equal work.
“It’s not about me or Joe Biden. It’s not about John McCain or Sarah Palin,” said Obama, adding, “It’s not about lipstick, it’s not about pigs, it’s about you.”
After saying “we must change the Karl Rove brand of politics we have been seeing over the last few weeks,” he took a moment to mock the McCain campaign and its belated recognition that the election was about change. For the majority of the race, he said, McCain had argued that his experience and “quarter century” in Washington spent in Washington qualified him for the job.
“Now suddenly John McCain says he is about change too,” he said. Referring to McCain’s use of the phrase “change that we need” in a new ad, Obama said “Sound familiar? Let me tell you something, instead of borrowing my lines he needs to borrow our ideas, Change isn’t about slogans it is about substance."
He said that it was hard to believe McCain was committed to change because of the lobbyists supporting him and running his campaign.
"If you think those lobbyists are working day and night for John McCain just to put themselves out of business, well then I’ve got a bridge to sell you up in Alaska."
The economic disaster looming over Wall Street has offered Obama another chance to talk about economic substance in a more forceful fashion. This morning’s speech suggested that he is finally taking it.