Barack Obama promoted his record on the economy and attacked John McCain's policies in a speech in Golden, Colo., on Sept. 16, 2008, the day after the stock market reeled on news of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy.
"Last September, I stood up at Nasdaq and said it's time to realize that we are in this together — that there is no dividing line between Wall Street and Main Street — and warned of a growing loss of trust in our capital markets," Obama said. "Months later, Sen. McCain told a newspaper that he'd love to give them a solution to the mortgage crisis, 'but' — he said — 'I don't know one.'"
Obama did give a speech at Nasdaq on Sept. 17, 2007, in which he talked about the mortgage crisis and how it could affect both homeowners and Wall Street. He proposed several ways that the government could regulate markets more effectively. So that part of his statement is true.
We wanted to know if McCain said that he "didn't know" of a solution to the mortgage crisis, as Obama said, and to see if McCain's remarks were taken in context.
The source for that claim is a videotaped interview McCain gave to the Keene (N.H.) Sentinel on Dec. 4, 2007.
In McCain's defense, it should be noted that at that time, the larger topic of debate was how to help homeowners losing their homes to foreclosure. The crisis in the financial industry then was a lesser, though still serious, concern. When McCain was speaking with the Sentinel board, the collapse of the investment bank Bear Stearns was still more than four months in the future.
In the interview, McCain disparaged speculators who contributed to bad loans, but his comments focused on how to help homeowners meet their house payments and stay out of foreclosure. McCain specifically mentioned creating a simplified form for mortgages so loan applicants could more easily understand the terms of their mortgages.
"In an ideal world, we'd have enough people to go case-by-case and say, okay, you can go back to your previous interest rate, and you can't," McCain said. "But, my God, we're talking about hundreds of thousands, if not millions (of homeowners) and how long would that take? Meanwhile, people are suffering very badly."
"I don't know how bad it's going to get, and obviously the worse it gets, then, the more there is a role for goverment," McCain added. "But I can't come down yet and give you a specific solution, because I don't claim to be smart enough, but I do have some confidence in (Treasury Secretary Henry) Paulson and I'm glad to see him more and more active in this issue. I'd love to give you a solution, but I don't know."
He also said he he relies on his advisers and other "smart people" to keep him up to speed on economic matters.
Let's stipulate that this interview does not showcase McCain at his best on issues of the economy and finance. But Obama's statement that McCain said he "didn't know" of a solution to the mortgage crisis appears to be accurate given the full context of the interview. We rate Obama's statement True.