Washington: September 25, 2008 - Warning “our entire economy is in danger,” US President George W. Bush called unprecedented emergency talks for Thursday with the two men vying to succeed him, John McCain and Barack Obama.
Bush announced his summit with the presidential candidates and top congressional leaders in a prime-time televised speech Wednesday seeking public support for his 700-billion-dollar Wall Street rescue plan.
“We’re in the midst of a serious financial crisis,” Bush said in his 13-minute speech from the White House, after angry legislators on Capitol Hill declared the shock proposal dead on arrival.
“Without immediate action by Congress , America could slip into a financial panic,” the president said. “Ultimately, our country could experience a long and painful recession.”
Six weeks before the November 4 elections, and four months before he hands the battered US economy to a new president, Bush said inaction could wipe out banks, empty retirement nest eggs, send home values into freefall, and create millions of new jobless.
“We must not let this happen,” he said.
Citing a rare “spirit of cooperation,” Bush said he was inviting McCain, Obama, and senior Democratic and Republican leaders from the House and Senate for a 4 pm (2000 GMT) meeting at the White House.
Bush invited Obama in a personal telephone call 90 minutes before his speech on Wednesday, the White House said. The Democrat’s chief spokesman, Bill Burton, confirmed in a statement that the Illinois senator would attend.
Obama has worked all week with senior lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, Burton said.
“He will continue to work in a bipartisan spirit and do whatever is necessary to come up with a final solution,” the spokesman added.
“We will discuss the progress we have made to improve the administration’s deeply flawed plan to address this unprecedented crisis ,” Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
“As I have said throughout, tomorrow’s meeting and future deliberations must be focused on solutions, not photo ops,” Reid said, after other Democrats mocked McCain’s decision to suspend his campaign over the crisis as a gimmick.
The Republican candidate announced he would return to Washington “until this crisis is resolved.”
But House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank, who has worked closely with Paulson and Bernanke in negotiating the bailout, expressed concern that McCain — who suggested Thursday’s White House crisis talks — could be a distraction from attempts to secure a rescue package this week on Capitol Hill.
“We were making progress, and I hope the presidential politics that he is injecting don’t stop it,” Frank told Fox News.