McCain Aide's Georgian Ties Become an Issue
By Zachary A. Goldfarb
The presidential campaign veered Sunday into a discussion about the escalating conflict between Georgia and Russia, with a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama suggesting that Sen. John McCain's criticism of Russia stems from his campaign's connections to Georgian political leadership.
"His campaign is run by lobbyists that represent Georgia and other countries," New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) said on ABC's "This Week," a clear reference to Randy Scheunemann, McCain's foreign policy adviser, who has been a registered lobbyist in Washington for the Tbilisi government.
That drew a sharp response from Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), reported to be under consideration as a McCain running mate. He said it was wrong for the Obama campaign to focus on any ties between members of the McCain campaign and the Georgian government.
Georgia is "an example of Senator McCain's push to spread democracy in that part of the world as a very important advance of America's interest," Jindal said on ABC. "I wish Senator Obama had actually confronted the issue, not trying to detract our attention by focusing on a McCain adviser."
The two countries clashed after Georgia tried to reassert control over a separatist province on Friday. Russia launched airstrikes and mobilized tanks, and quickly ramped up its attack. A senior U.S. official called the Russian response disproportionate to the Georgian action.
McCain immediately called on Russia to stop its incursion into Georgia, while Obama took a more cautious approach advocating restraint on both sides.
Jindal said the conflict underscores why a president with deep experience in international affairs is important.
"I think this is another example, during these uncertain times, where we need experienced leadership. We need someone like Senator McCain who will take a stronger view, a more experienced view when it comes to international security and protecting America's interest," Jindal said.
Richardson, who ran for president himself this year and was a top diplomat in Bill Clinton's administration, said McCain's approach was typical of the Bush administration.
"What Senator McCain wants to do is continue the Bush policies of trying to isolate Russia. ... It's not working," Richardson said.
A Different Kind of Air Assault
Despite media attention on a series of McCain ads that criticize Obama, top McCain adviser Rick Davis said the Republican has spent less as has Obama on attack ads.
"I would say Obama is spending exactly the same amount of time attacking us and, frankly, probably more money," he said.
"Obama started negative campaigning on John McCain long before we started punching back," Davis added on "Fox News Sunday," underscoring a point made Friday by McCain himself to The Post's Michael D. Shear.
"Barack Obama has been in the United States Senate less than 300 working days. He has voted for 90 tax increases," Davis said. "Now, we could have an ad on every tax increase he's voted on every single day between now and the election and still not get them all in."
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said McCain's support for tax cuts for corporations would benefit energy and oil companies enjoying rich rewards from the economic pains felt by ordinary Americans.
"The profit-taking by the oil companies is not being used to look for new sources of oil and gas. Overwhelmingly, they're buying back their stock. They're paying out dividends. They're paying the CEO salaries," Durbin said. "When John McCain says, 'Well, they need $4 billion more in tax breaks,' he just doesn't understand the reality of what this economy is facing."
Durbin added that while Obama supports rolling back Bush tax cuts, he supports reductions on taxes for the middle class.
"Those are the folks who have been disadvantaged by a war that's costing us $10 billion to $12 billion a month, a war that's taking money out of our economy that could be spent here in America," Durbin said.
Paulson: No Federal Bailout of Freddie, Fannie
The government does not plan to use its authority to inject capital into the struggling mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Last month, as concerns spread that Fannie and Freddie would be unable to meet their obligations for the trillions of dollars of mortgage loans they own or guarantee, Congress passed legislation authorizing the Treasury to ensure the companies can continue to play their important role in the market for U.S. mortgages.
"We have no plans to insert money into either of those two institutions," Paulson said.
Paulson added that he would work to the end of the Bush administration but not beyond Jan. 20.
"I'm going to run right up until the end," Paulson said. "I will do everything I can to make for a smooth transition, to work closely with my successor here in Treasury."
He added, "I believe it's going to take us well beyond the end of the year to work through all the housing problems."
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