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The Meltdown: Pols Play the Blame Game 

Jeff Merkley is pointing the finger at Gordon Smith for the meltdown of the American capitalist system, and Gordon Smith is pointing the finger right

Jeff Merkley is pointing the finger at Gordon Smith for the meltdown of the American capitalist system, and Gordon Smith is pointing the finger right back at ... Ron Wyden?

In a news release, the Democratic US Senate candidate calls on Smith to reject George Bush's $700 billion bailout proposal and charges that the two-term senator's "support for deregulation was instrumental in causing this crisis. In 1999, he supported the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which removed restrictions on the activities of banks, investment firms and insurance companies and allowed the proliferation of new and unregulated banking practices that led to this crisis."

"Republicans in Washington are demanding a blank check to fix the mess they created and that is completely unacceptable," Merkley continued. "Real families are hurting in this economy and George Bush is only concerned about CEOs on Wall Street. Gordon Smith rubber-stamped the Bush policies that led to this mess, and I urge him to reject any blank check that puts special interests on Wall Street ahead of families on Main Street."

The principal author of the deregulation act was then-Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who, you may recall, was Republican presidential candidate John McCain's chief economic advisor until he made some unfortunate remarks about how Americans are "whiners" and our economic troubles are all in our heads.

In his own defense, Smith pointed out that a number of Democratic senators, including Oregon's Ron Wyden (who isn't up for re-election this year) and Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden, ended up voting for a modified version of the Gramm act and President Bill Clinton signed it into law. "If Jeff Merkley is outraged with Gordon Smith, he should be outraged with his fellow Democrats across the board," Smith spokesperson Lindsay Gilbride told The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes.

Undaunted, Merkley spokesman Matt Canter fired another broadside: "Saying don't play the blame game is Washington-speak for, 'Don't hold me accountable.'"

The crisis seems more likely to benefit Merkley than Smith: According to a CNN/Opinion Research Poll, Americans are blaming Republicans rather than Democrats for it by a 2-1 ratio.

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