Sunday, July 13, 2008

John McCain's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week

During just this past seven days, McCain described Social Security as "a disgrace", his top economic adviser, Phil Gramm, called the American people "a nation of whiners", he released an economic plan that no one thought was serious, he flip-flopped on Iraq, joked about killing Iranians with tobacco products, and denied making comments that he clearly made -- TWICE. He capped it off on Friday by fudging details about an incident during his captivity as a Vietnamese POW, contradicting what he claimed in his memoirs.

Yet watching and reading the mainstream media you would think he skated through all of that. At least Jesse Jackson didn't say anything about him, after all.

Let's unpack McCain's lousy week in greater detail:

1. McCain unambiguously called Social Security "an absolute disgrace." This is not a quote taken out of context. This is shocking -- and if it had been uttered from Obama's mouth would have dominated the news coverage and the Sunday talking heads, as pundits would speculate about the massive damage the statement would cause him among seniors in Florida.

2. McCain's top economic policy adviser called Americans a bunch of "whiners" for being worried about the slumping economy. Words cannot fully explain how devastating this statement should be from Phil Gramm. But it's also what the candidate believes as well; that our economic problems are psychological.

3. Iraqi leaders call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, McCain gets caught in a bizarre denial and flip flop. The Iraqis now want us to begin planning our withdrawal -- so what does McCain say? First, he refuses to accept Maliki's statement as being true. Then he concedes that it was an accurate statement, but was probably just a political ploy to curry favor with his own people and WOULD NOT influence his determination to keep US troops in Iraq indefinitely. Yet McCain in 2004 at the Council on Foreign Relations said that if the Iraqis asked us to leave, we would have to go. No matter what. But that was apparently a younger and less experienced John McCain.

4. McCain's economic plan to cut the deficit has no details and is simply not believable. There are so many things here. McCain pledges he would eliminate the deficit by the end of his first term (the campaign latter flip-flop-flipped about whether it was four years or eight years), but does not provide any details about how he would do it. Economists on both sides of the political aisle said that this was simply credible, especially given McCain's other proposals to a) cut individual and corporate taxes even further, b) extend the Bush tax cuts, c) massively increase defense spending on manpower -- 200,000 more troops; and d) maintain a long-term sizable military presence in Iraq.

5. McCain's deficit plan includes bringing the troops home, and that represents his greatest Iraq flip-flop to date.
Speaking of the long-term military presence, a story that has gotten absolutely no attention is that McCain now believes the war will be over soon. The economic forecasts made by his crack team of economists predict that there will be significant savings during McCain's first term because we will have achieved "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The savings from victory (ie the savings from not having our troops there) will then be used to pay down the deficit. The only way this could have any impact on the deficit in McCain's first time is if troop withdrawals start very soon. So McCain believes victory is in our grasp and we can remove soldiers from Iraq right away.

That doesn't sound much different from Obama's plan, does it?

6. McCain campaign misled about economists support. In the press release the McCain campaign issued to tout its Jobs for America economic plan -- that would balance the budget in 4 years -- it included the signatures of more than 300 economists who, the campaign claimed, supported the plan. Only problem is that the economists were actually asked to sign up to SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Um, hello?

7. McCain makes a joke about killing Iranians with cigarettes. There's that Straight Talking Maverick we've been looking for. According to the AP this was just a humanizing moment between candidate and spouse.

8. McCain denies, flatly, that he ever said that he is not an expert in economics. Are you kidding?

9). McCain distorts his record on veterans benefits in response to a question from a Vietnam veteran, who then proceeds to call McCain out on it.

There's video of this one:

10.) McCain demonstrates he knows nothing about Afghanistan and Pakistan. McCain said "I think if there is some good news, I think that there is a glimmer of improving relationship between Karzai and the Pakistanis." Pat Barry notes how crazy this comment is..."Just what "glimmer" is McCain talking about?? Maybe he's referring to President Karzai's remarks last month, which threatened military action in Pakistan if cross-border attacks persisted? Or maybe McCain is talking about Afghanistan's allegations that Pakistan's ISI was involved in a recent assassination attempt on Karzai? Maybe in McCain's world you could call that a silver-lining, but in realityland I'd call it something else."

11.) To wrap up the worst imaginable week ever in any presidential campaign, McCain misquoted himself by describing an incident during his POW captivity in Vietnam, substituting the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Green Bay Packers in the anecdote regarding the names of his squadron-mates. Of course McCain was speaking to a Pennsylvania television reporter at the time, so I'm sure it was an honest pander.

This morning expect these incidents above to get short shrift from pundit after pundit, because after all Jesse Jackson said he wanted to cut Obama's nuts off.

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