In 2000, he told an interviewer that he would make up for his lack of attention to “those issues.” As he entered the 2008 campaign, Mr. McCain was still saying the same, vowing to read “Greenspan’s book” as a tutorial. Last weekend, the resolutely analog candidate told The New York Times he is at last starting to learn how “to get online myself.” Perhaps he’ll retire his abacus by Election Day.
Picking myself off the floor from laughing after that one.
McCain’s fiscal ineptitude has received so little scrutiny in some press quarters that his chief economic adviser, the former Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, got a free pass until the moment he self-immolated on video by whining about “a nation of whiners.” The McCain-Gramm bond, dating back 15 years, is more scandalous than Obama’s connection with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. McCain has been so dependent on Gramm for economic policy that he sent him to newspaper editorial board meetings, no doubt to correct the candidate’s numbers much as Joe Lieberman cleans up after his confusions of Sunni and Shia.
Just two weeks before publicly sharing his thoughts about America’s “mental recession,” Mr. Gramm laid out equally incendiary views in a Wall Street Journal profile that portrayed him as “almost certainly” the McCain choice for Treasury secretary. Mr. Gramm said that the former chief executive of AT&T, Ed Whitacre, was “probably the most exploited worker in American history” since he received only a $158 million pay package rather than the “billions” he deserved for his success in growing Southwestern Bell.
Coming on this news about the compensation packages of Houston's titans of the oil industry -- along with the free-market apologists in the comments -- this data about Gramm's employer, UBS, has even greater impact ...
But no one in the news media seemed to notice Gramm’s naked expression of the mindset he’d bring to a McCain White House. And few journalists have vetted the presumptive Treasury secretary’s post-Senate history as an executive at UBS. The stock of that banking giant has lost 70 percent of its value in a year after its reckless adventures in the subprime lending market. It’s now fending off federal investigation for helping the mega-rich avoid taxes.
McCain made a big show of banishing Gramm after his whining “gaffe,” but it’s surely at most a temporary suspension. When the candidate said back in January that there’s nobody he knows who is stronger on economic issues than his old Senate pal, he was telling the truth. Left to his own devices — or those of his new No. 1 economic surrogate, Carly Fiorina — McCain is clueless.
And then Rich zeroes in on McCain's, ah, changes of mind:
The term flip-flopping doesn’t do justice to Mr. McCain’s self-contradictory economic pronouncements because that implies there’s some rational, if hypocritical, logic at work. What he serves up instead is plain old incoherence, as if he were compulsively consulting one of those old Magic 8 Balls. In a single 24-hour period in April, Mr. McCain went from saying there’s been “great economic progress” during the Bush presidency to saying “Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago.” He reversed his initial condemnation of mortgage bailouts in just two weeks.
In February Mr. McCain said he would balance the federal budget by the end of his first term even while extending the gargantuan Bush tax cuts. In April he said he’d accomplish this by the end of his second term. In July he’s again saying he’ll do it in his first term. Why not just say he’ll do it on Inauguration Day? It really doesn’t matter since he’s never supplied real numbers that would give this promise even a patina of credibility.
Mr. McCain’s plan for Social Security reform is “along the lines that President Bush proposed.” Or so he said in March. He came out against such “privatization” in June (though his policy descriptions still support it). Last week he indicated he isn’t completely clear on what Social Security does. He called the program’s premise — young taxpayers foot the bill for their elders (including him) — an “absolute disgrace.”
Rich goes on to savage Carly Fiorina, the backup financial adviser as well as Mitt Romney, presumptive vice-presidential selection, as similarly economic-justice-challenged. But then he quite oddly advances former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg as the ultimate in Maverick picks for running mate.
Yeah, that ought to go over swimmingly with both Bloomberg -- himself heavily rumored earlier this year for the job McCain wants -- and the GOP base of obstructionists of reproductive choice and gay rights.