Barack Obama, John McCain React to Lehman Brothers Crisis—With Wildly Divergent Opinions

White House hopefuls know exactly where to point their fingers over the widening crisis on Wall Street.

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DAILY NEWS STAFF

While financial experts were left reeling Monday over the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the White House hopefuls knew exactly where to point their fingers over the widening crisis on Wall Street.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama in a statement called it "the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression." He laid the blame squarely on the policies of the Bush Administration, and suggested his Republican rival, John McCain, would provide more of the same.

During a campaign stop in Jacksonville, Fla., McCain put a different spin on the situation, saying "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" despite the widening crisis in the financial sector.

The candidates' remarks came after the stunning weekend news that Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy Monday—following on the heels of the disclosure that Bank of America took over Merrill Lynch. They are just the latest corporate giants to teeter on the edge of collapse in recent weeks—joining the likes of Frannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Bear Sterns.

At stake for the candidates is more than dollars and sense: The economy is considered the no. 1 issue in the election by many voters.

"This country can't afford another four years of this failed philosophy," Obama said just before he departed on a campaign swing through the Midwest.

"Eight years of policies that have shredded consumer protections, loosened oversight and regulation, and encouraged outsized bonuses to CEOs while ignoring middle-class Americans have brought us to the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression." said Obama. "I certainly don't fault Sen. McCain for these problems," Obama said, "but I do fault the economic philosophy he subscribes to."

McCain told supporters that the basic US economy was stronger than his opponent suggested and vowed to reform the way Wall Street does business to prevent future problems in the financial sector.

"There's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street and it is - people are frightened by these events," said McCain. "Our economy, I think, still the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times.

"And I promise you, we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. We will re-reform government."

With Wire Reports