McCain, Obama play blame game |

McCain, Obama play blame game

Steven R. Hurst
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON ” Barack Obama and John McCain busied themselves with blaming one another for the economic hardships facing Americans, while overlooking their own roles in decisions that may have played into the slumping U.S. economy, the number one issue among voters in the coming presidential election.

Meanwhile, the first major poll taken since Obama’s high-profile visit to the Middle East and Europe showed him holding a 47-41 percentage-point lead over McCain.

Democrat Obama on Tuesday charged his Republican opponent McCain had acceded to “the Cheney playbook” on energy. Obama did not mention his own vote in support of oil-friendly policies that the unpopular vice president helped to craft.

Vice President Dick Cheney, a former oilman as is President George W. Bush, played a major role in writing an energy policy early in first term of their administration. Obama now says the policy gives overly generous tax breaks and other favorable treatment to U.S. oil giants.

“President Bush, he had an energy policy. He turned to Dick Cheney and he said, ‘Cheney, go take care of this,'” Obama said Tuesday during a town hall session in the economically-hard hit Youngstown, Ohio.

“Cheney met with renewable-energy folks once and oil and gas (executives) 40 times. McCain has taken a page out of the Cheney playbook,” the first-term Illinois senator said.

However, Obama himself voted for the 2005 energy bill that included billions of dollars in subsidies for oil and natural gas production. McCain opposed it on grounds the measure included billions in unnecessary tax breaks for the oil industry.

The Obama campaign has said the Illinois senator supported the legislation because it included huge boost to the renewable energy sector.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds, said, “Barack Obama is opposed to offshore drilling and is also opposed to admitting that he voted for the same corporate giveaways for Big Oil that he’s campaigning against today.”

Obama’s Ohio speech, aimed at enticing voters to his newly unveiled energy policy, was sprinkled with caustic references to McCain and assertions that his opponent promised “nothing but four years more of the same” for Americans struggling with near-record gasoline prices and soaring food costs.

McCain, meanwhile, rolled out a new television ad that emphasizes the four-term Arizona senator’s reputation as an independent, reform-minded politician ” an obvious bid to counter Democratic charges that a McCain presidency would be an extension of Bush’s eight-year White House tenure.

The ad says: “Washington’s broken. John McCain knows it. We’re worse off than we were four years ago.” It does not mention Obama but suggests he is unprepared to be president by saying McCain is the one ready to lead.

That prompted a howling retort from the Obama camp that quickly cited a television interview earlier in the campaign during which McCain said, “I think you could argue that Americans overall are better off, because we have had a pretty good prosperous time, with low unemployment and low inflation and a lot of good things have happened.”

McCain gave that answer in response to a question about whether Americans were better off economically after Bush’s two terms. He also issued the caveat that “things are tough right now.”

The ad also seeks to subsume Obama’s message of change by casting McCain as a change agent, mentioning his adversarial challenges to big tobacco, drug companies and corruption in political parties.

It does not mention areas where McCain and Bush agree ” tax cuts, the Iraq war and free-market economics.

McCain’s Tuesday visit to the Enrico Fermi Nuclear Generating Station in Michigan, underscored his call for the U.S to build as many as 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030. He also has proposed expanded drilling off the U.S. coast and a $300 million prize for developing a revolutionary automobile battery.

Obama has described nuclear power as “not optimal” and labeled himself “not a nuclear energy proponent.” But he has said he would not rule out more nuclear power “so far as it is clean and safe.”

In recent days, Obama has made two significant reversals as he added to his own energy policy by outlining a plan to end U.S. reliance on foreign oil within 10 years. He said he could support limited new offshore drilling as part of a compromise to develop alternate energy sources, and he proposed tapping some of the U.S. emergency crude oil stockpile to relieve the gasoline price shock.

“Breaking our oil addiction is one of the greatest challenges our generation will ever face,” the Illinois senator said.

A new Associated Press-Ipsos poll released Tuesday showed Obama with a 47-41 percentage-point lead over McCain.

The survey was taken after Obama had returned from a trip to Middle Eastern and European capitals, and during a week that saw the two camps clash over which of them had brought race into a campaign. Obama, if he wins, would be the country’s first African-American president.

Despite Obama’s overall six percentage-point lead, McCain held a 10-point advantage among whites and is even with Obama among men, groups with whom Republicans traditionally do well in national elections.

Obama leads by 13 points among women, by 30 points among voters up to age 34, and by 55 points among blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, the poll shows.

Just 18 percent think the country is moving in the right direction, and only 31 percent approve of the Bush is doing. Both readings are a bit better than the record lows in both categories measured by the poll in mid-July.

Congressional approval was at 19 percent, just above last month’s all-time AP-Ipsos low.

The poll was conducted from July 31-Aug. 4 and involved telephone interviews with 1,002 adults, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Included were interviews with 833 registered voters, for whom the error margin was plus or minus 3.4 points.

McCain appears to be heading for trouble in traditionally Republican Midwestern farm states with his opposition to the $300 billion farm bill and subsidies for ethanol.

Obama is making a more traditional regional pitch: He favors the farm bill approved by Congress this year and subsidies for the Midwest-based ethanol industry.

McCain instead has promised to open new markets abroad for farmers to export their commodities.

In his position papers, McCain opposes farm subsidies only for those with incomes of more than $250,000 and a net worth above $2 million. But he’s gone further in campaign appearances.

“I don’t support agricultural subsidies no matter where they are,” McCain said at a recent appearance in Wisconsin. “The farm bill, $300 billion, is something America simply can’t afford.”

McCain later described the measure as “a $300 billion, bloated, pork-barrel-laden bill” because of subsidies for industries like ethanol.

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