Blame peppers responses on economy

Democrats launched withering blasts Thursday at President Bush, John McCain and Republicans as mismanaging the nation's financial meltdown.

“What we have now is a man-made disaster, a disaster that comes from the Bush failed policies, the failure of the Bush administration to steward our economy in a responsible way,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a news conference.

Pelosi's remarks, echoed throughout the day by Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama and other Democrats in Congress, were extraordinary at a time when financial markets were trying to recover from a week of shocks.

Obama mocked McCain for calling for government reform of financial markets after a long career of standing for deregulation.

“John McCain can't decide whether he's Barry Goldwater or Dennis Kucinich,” Obama said, referring to the conservative icon and the liberal representative. “Well, I have a message for Sen. McCain: You can't just run away from your long-held views or your lifelong record.

“You can't erase 26 years of support for the very policies and people who helped bring on this disaster with one week of rants.”

McCain on Thursday proposed the firing of Christopher Cox, chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and outlined other proposals including setting up a new government entity to help troubled banks and mortgage lenders get healthy. Details, however, were skimpy.

Democrats dismissed the plans as too little, too late.

Pelosi criticized Tuesday's $85 billion Federal Reserve loan to failing insurer American International Group.

“Where is that money coming from?” she asked. “What is its impact on our deficit?”

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, said there was no answer. “Who knows, and who knows how much it will cost?” he said. “All we can do is pray.”

McCain, slipping in polls this week as the economy emerged the dominant issue, said Thursday he would fire Cox, a former Republican congressman from California who became SEC chairman in 2005.

“The chairman of the SEC serves at the appointment of the president and, in my view, has betrayed the public's trust. If I were president today, I'd fire him,” McCain said.

The SEC isn't responsible for regulating insurers such as AIG or mortgage financiers such as Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae. Its mission is to protect investors in securities. Though it's been criticized for allowing credit-rating agencies to paint rosy pictures of the mortgage bonds at the root of today's financial turmoil, the SEC until recently didn't have the power to police them.

Douglas Holtz-Eakin, McCain's chief economic adviser, said McCain would unveil a plan Friday to set up a new government entity to help companies maintain liquidity in troubled times. He wouldn't say how much the initiative would cost, who'd be eligible or how it would be managed.

Obama said he would unveil a three-part relief plan Friday.

“It will provide capital to the financial system,” he said, and “will provide liquidity to enable our financial markets to function.” Obama also pledged to “get serious about helping struggling families to restructure their mortgages on more affordable terms so they can stay in their homes.”