With public anxiety mounting over financial markets and the economy, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain engaged in a muted debate Tuesday night over who was to blame and whose plan would successfully address the problems.

n the second presidential debate, at Belmont University in Nashville, Mr. Obama faulted the Bush administration and by extension Mr. McCain for a deregulatory environment that he said had led to the economic meltdown. And Mr. McCain, pledging to aid struggling homeowners, offered a proposal to direct the federal government to save families from foreclosure by buying mortgages they could no longer afford.

“As president of the United States,” Mr. McCain said in response to an audience member’s question, “I would order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America and renegotiate at the new value of those homes, at the diminished value of those homes and let people make those, be able to make those payments and stay in their homes. Is it expensive? Yes.”

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Peter Fray

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