McCain likens Obama to European socialists

Associated Press | 10/22/2008, 4:59 a.m.

The campaign heated up last Saturday, with just over two weeks remaining before Election Day, as Obama countered by accusing his rival of being “out of touch” with the struggles of middle-class Americans who need “a break.”

The presidential candidates swapped sharply worded charges over tax cuts, each accusing the other of shortchanging middle-income Americans at a time of economic hardship for millions.

McCain has become increasingly aggressive in debates, personal appearances and — in recent days — automated phone calls as the polls showed him falling behind nationally as well as in several key states.

Obama attacks his rival heartily, and his rhetoric is backed by a late-campaign television advertising blitz that McCain has been unable to match.

McCain last Saturday leveled critical rhetoric in a paid weekly radio address, and campaigned later that day in North Carolina and Virginia, a pair of traditionally Republican states he is struggling to hold.

The senator took the stage in Woodbridge, Va., to the theme from “Rocky,” a movie about an underdog and comeback fighter — who loses his big fight in the film’s final scene.

In his radio address, McCain accused Obama of wanting to “convert the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) into a giant welfare agency, redistributing massive amounts of wealth at the direction of politicians in Washington.”

“At least in Europe, the socialist leaders who so admire my opponent are upfront about their objectives,” the Arizona senator said. “They use real numbers and honest language. And we should demand equal candor from Sen. Obama. Raising taxes on some in order to give checks to others is not a tax cut; it’s just another government giveaway.”

Obama responded a few hours later in his appearance before one of the largest crowds of his campaign in St. Louis, saying his Republican rival “wants to cut taxes for the same people who have already been making out like bandits, in some cases literally.”

“John McCain is so out of touch with the struggles you are facing that he must be the first politician in history to call a tax cut for working people ‘welfare,’” Obama said.

Obama said McCain “wants to give the average Fortune 500 CEO a $700,000 tax cut but absolutely nothing at all to over 100 million Americans.”

“I want to cut taxes — cut taxes — for 95 percent of all workers.”

The exchange unfolded 17 days before an election that is trending Obama’s way as he bids to become America’s first black president.

Anxiety over the teetering U.S. economy, uncertainty over the wisdom of McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, and the Republicans’ vicious character attacks against Obama in the last month all have been cited as possible reasons for McCain’s drop in the polls.

The differences between the two men on taxes have been present from the early days of the campaign, but lately they have attained greater prominence in the wake of a credit crunch, deep declines in the stock markets and rising joblessness.