Republican John McCain distanced himself from an economic adviser who dubbed the United States "a nation of whiners" in a "mental recession" as Democrat Barack Obama turned the remarks against his rival.
"I strongly disagree" with Phil Gramm's remarks, McCain told reporters in Belleville, Mich. "Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me."
The Republican presidential hopeful said a person who just lost a job "isn't suffering from a mental recession."
"America is in great difficulty. And we are experiencing enormous economic challenges as well as others," McCain said, seeking to stem the fallout of Gramm's comments.
Gramm, a former Texas senator who is a vice chairman of the Swiss bank UBS, made the remarks in an interview with The Washington Times. Gramm has a doctorate in economics.
Gramm had basically said that Americans were "whiners" and since that gaffe, he's been trying to backtrack and say that he was talking about the leaders, not the people. This comes on the heels of McCain saying that Social Security is a "disgrace." There HAS to be a media mancrush the likes of which we have never seen before--that's the only way to explain two wrenching, out of control gaffes of major importance happening so close to one another, one from the candidate and one from a friend like Gramm. I mean, how do you get away with having Gramm on your campaign in the first place? Gramm was instrumental in the recent mortgage meltdown and has worked as a lobbyist for a foreign-owned bank.
Remember, it was McCain who was once the surrogate for Gramm, when Gramm electrified this nation and came within several thousand delegates of being the Republican nominee for President. (I kid--Gramm was within 1,800 delegates or so at one point, probably.)
Senator Obama twists the knife, and we appreciate that kind of thing:
In Virginia, Obama seized on the comments as he tried to paint McCain as out of touch: "America already has one Dr. Phil. We don't need another one when it comes to the economy."
He drew cheers and laughter with that comment referencing television psychologist "Dr. Phil" McGraw - and boos and hisses when he read Gramm's quotes to his audience. He contrasted them with rising gas and food prices, home foreclosures and job layoffs.
"It's not just a figment of your imagination," Obama said at a town-hall event focused on helping women advance economically. "Let's be clear. This economic downturn is not in your head."
Shades of the first President Bush in 1991, I would say. McCain is out of touch, out of his element, and lost when it comes to economics. And he's getting advice from people like Gramm who have failed, miserably, at electoral politics.