Obama slams McCain over oil company tax breaks, negative ads
"Is that the best you can do?" asks Obama of McCain on attack ads.
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama seized on a record oil company profit to argue that rival John McCain offers only tax breaks for Big Oil and "short-term gimmicks" to consumers struggling with soaring gasoline prices.
The Illinois senator quickly incorporated news of Exxon Mobil's nearly $12 billion quarterly profit into his remarks at a town hall meeting here.
"No U.S. corporation ever made that much in a quarter," Obama said. "But while Big Oil is making record profits, you are paying record prices at the pump and our economy is leaving working people behind."
McCain's response, Obama said, is to propose a corporate tax plan that would give "$4 billion each year to the oil companies, including $1.2 billion for Exxon Mobil alone" and a gas tax holiday that Obama said would only "pad oil company profits and save you — at best — half a tank of gas" over an entire summer.
In recent days, Obama has complained that McCain is offering little of substance to voters and does little more than attack.
"All those negative ads he's running won't do a thing to lower your gas prices or lift up the debate in this country," Obama said.
As the campaign sought to contrast energy problems with McCain's campaign tactics, Obama joked about a new McCain commercial that calls the Democrat the biggest celebrity in the world while showing images of pop culture celebrities Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
"So far all we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton," said Obama. "I do have to ask my opponent: Is that the best you can do? Is that what this election is really all about? Is that worthy of the American people."
Obama said McCain is part of a Washington establishment that "has failed the American people on energy and that failure has led directly to our current crisis."
In response, the McCain campaign labeled Obama's criticism a "hypocritical political attack," and cited his vote in 2005 for an energy bill backed by President Bush. McCain opposed the legislation.
The two rivals have clear differences on energy policy. McCain favors a gas tax "holiday" for the summer driving season and wants to expand offshore drilling. Obama opposes both and instead advocates longer term assistance to develop alternative energy sources.
"That's how America is going to free itself from our dependence on foreign oil — not through short-term gimmicks, but through a real long-term commitment to transform our energy sector," Obama said.
Developing alternative energy is a big issue throughout the upper Midwest, a crucial swing region in this year's election.
While the exchanges between Obama and McCain have been growing sharper, he said, "I'm not interested in getting into a tit-for-tat, that's not going to lower your gas prices."
Before the town hall meeting, Obama met with victims of this summer's flooding to assure them he would push for rapid assistance to rebuild in a city that suffered $1 billion in flood damage.
"This city is going to rebuild," said Obama. "People are hurting, people are suffering. We need to make sure these communities have the assistance they need in a timely fashion."