John McCain may want to refine his economic message a bit more during this potentially disastrous week for the financial sector.
On the campaign trail in Jacksonville, Florida, the Senator declared this morning that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong," despite what he described as "tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street."
The line may seem like GOP boilerplate, save for the fact that this morning, the McCain campaign released a television ad that began: "Our economy is in crisis." Moreover, with financial and job markets in disarray, and with Lehman Brothers, the troubled investment bank, filing for bankruptcy, it may not be the wisest political message to tell voters that the fundamentals are a-okay.
"You know," said McCain, "there's been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street and it is -- people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think, still the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult time. And I promise you, we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. We will reform government."
Many conservatives and McCain supporters have argued, against the prevailing sentiment, that despite Wall Street's failings, the economy is actually on firm footing. Donald Luskin, who described himself as "an adviser to John McCain's campaign," made such an argument in Sunday's Washington Post. But despite modest growth and relatively low unemployment rates, many economists see dire signs in today's economic landscape. On Sunday, former fed chairman Alan Greenspan said the market was the worst he had ever witnessed and predicted another major bank would close soon. Meanwhile, inflation is rising, real wages are declining, and the problems in the housing market persist.
McCain acknowledged, to various degrees, these topics in his Monday morning speech.
"I promise you we will never put America in this position again," McCain said. "This is a failure. We've got take every action to build an environment of robust energy supplies, lower inflation, control health care costs, access to international markets, low taxes and reduce burden of government to allow people to move forward toward a future of prosperity."
But his proclamation that the fundamentals of it all remained positive is surely music to Democratic ears.
UPDATE: Sure enough, Obama spokesman takes aim...
Today of all days, John McCain's stubborn insistence that the 'fundamentals of the economy are strong' shows that he is disturbingly out of touch with what's going in the lives of ordinary Americans. Even as his own ads try to convince him that the economy is in crisis, apparently his 26 years in Washington have left him incapable of understanding that the policies he supports have created an historic economic crisis.
And, an hour or so later, Joe Biden weighs in as well:
"John McCain has confessed, and I quote - I want to make sure I get it right - he said, it's easy for me to be in Washington and frankly be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have. Well, he's right. He's right. If all you do is walk the halls of power, all you'll hear is the wants of the powerful. Ladies and gentleman, I believe that's why John McCain could say with a straight face as recently as this morning, and this is a quote, the fundamentals of the economy are strong. That's what John said. He says that we've made great progress economically, in the Bush years. Ladies and gentlemen, I could walk from here to Lansing, and I wouldn't run into a single person who thought our economy was doing well, unless I ran into John McCain."