The McCain campaign is working hard to distance itself from statements made by economic adviser Phil Gramm describing the current economic downturn as a "mental recession" and saying America had "sort of become a nation of whiners."
But in an initial statement published by Politico and then, seemingly, removed from its site, a McCain campaign aide actually stood by Gramm's remarks, saying the interview as a whole was merely meant as a preview of the Senator's economic agenda.
"Mr. Gramm was simply saying that we are laying out the economic plan this week," the piece quoted a "McCain official" as saying. "The plan is comprehensive, providing immediate near-term relief for Americans hurting today as well as longer-term solutions to get our economy back on track, secure our energy future and deliver jobs, prosperity and opportunity for the next generation. We're laying out that plan this week with an emphasis on the critical importance of job creation, and it's been a great success so far."
Only after the fallout from Gramm's statement did the McCain campaign fully backtrack.
"Phil Gramm's comments are not representative of John McCain's views," read a campaign statement. "John McCain travels the country every day talking to Americans who are hurting, feeling pain at the pump and worrying about how they'll pay their mortgage. That's why he has a realistic plan to deliver immediate relief at the gas pump, grow our economy and put Americans back to work."
The two statements - the first one issued to Politico and the one offered to the press list this morning - are diametrically different. And they seem to reflect recognition, by the McCain camp, that Gramm's remark on the economy is simply un-spinnable.
The former Texas Senator, speaking to the Washington Times said that the media had been single-mindedly focused on reporting bad economic news, which, in turn, had contributed to the sentiment that the economy was in shambles.
"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."
"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline."
There is no word as to why the initial quote in the Politico piece was removed from the site. But a cached version of the story (and the quote) can still be seen via a Google search.
Update: Gramm is also standing by his recession remark:
Former senator Phil Gramm -- under fire for saying the United States has "become a nation of whiners" -- said in an interview today that he meant the nation's leaders were whiners, not its citizens.
But the top adviser to Sen. John McCain repeated his assertion that the economy is not in recession, and he declined to retract the comments quoted yesterday in the Washington Times.
"I'm not going to retract any of it. Every word I said was true," Gramm said.
Updated Further: Mike Allen, the author of the Politico piece, explains why the quote was removed (he's been updating the article as the story progresses):
The second one is the latest--it refers to Senator Gramm's specific quotes, which is what we were more interested in. The older one was non-specific, about the plan that McCain put out this week. The quote distancing Senator McCain from Senator Gramm seemed more interesting and newsworthy.