Wash. Post glossed over McCain's deception on lack of "economic expertise" comment

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

A Washington Post article noted Sen. John McCain's response to a question about his "economic expertise" on NBC's Meet the Press, but failed to report that McCain's response came while acknowledging that he had wrongly suggested in a Republican presidential debate days earlier that he had not said "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues."

A February 3 Washington Post article, headlined "Contenders Highlight GOP's Ideological Struggle," reported that when NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) about his "economic expertise," McCain responded, "Of course, I know more about national security than any other issue ... It's been my entire life." However, the article ignored the fact that McCain's response came while acknowledging that he had wrongly suggested in a Republican presidential debate days earlier that he had not said "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues."

The Post article also referred to McCain as "[a] Cold War-era soldier with little regard for partisanship," despite his shifts on issues such as immigration and President Bush's tax cuts.

During the January 24 Republican presidential debate, Russert asked McCain: "Senator McCain, you have said repeatedly, 'I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.' Is it a problem for your campaign that the economy is now the most important issue, one that, by your own acknowledgement, you're not well versed on?" McCain replied: "I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well-versed in economics." However, on the January 27 edition of Meet the Press, Russert said to McCain, "I want to bring you back to Thursday in an exchange we had," and proceeded to air the video clip from the debate in which McCain questioned the accuracy of the quote Russert had read aloud. At that point, McCain responded, "Now I know where you got that quote from. Now I know where you got that quote from." He later said: "Let me tell you what I was trying to say and what I meant -- and that's obvious. I spent 22 years in the military. I spent 20 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I've been involved in national security issues all my life. I attended the National War College. Of course I know more about national security than any other issue. That's been my entire life."

From the January 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:

[begin video clip]

RUSSERT: Senator McCain, you have said repeatedly, "I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated." Is it a problem for your campaign that the economy is now the most important issue, one that, by your own acknowledgement, you're not well-versed on?

McCAIN: Actually, I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well-versed in economics.

[end video clip]

RUSSERT: Well, I'll tell you --

McCAIN: Now I know where you got that quote from. Now I know where you got the quote from.

RUSSERT: I will show you where I got the quote from. I got it from John McCain, and here it is: "McCain is refreshingly blunt when he tells me, quote, 'I'm going to be honest. I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.' " Wall Street Journal, November 26th, 2005. You repeated it to The Boston Globe in December of '07. You said it.

McCAIN: OK. Let me tell you what I was trying to say and what I meant -- and that's obvious. I spent 22 years in the military. I spent 20 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee. I've been involved in national security issues all my life. I attended the National War College. Of course I know more about national security than any other issue. That's been my entire life.

Am I smart on economics? Yes. I was chairman of the Commerce Committee. Why -- that's why people like [former Sen.] Phil Gramm [R-TX], [Sen.] Tom Coburn [R-OK] and [former Sen.] Warren Rudman [R-NH] and [former Hewlett-Packard CEO] Carly Fiorina and the real strong economic minds, [1996 Republican vice presidential nominee] Jack Kemp, the real strong minds on the economy and conservatives on the economy are supporting me. They don't think that I'm -- of course, I always have things to learn, and I continue to learn every day, but I'm very strong on the economy. And, frankly, my economic record is a lot stronger than that of the governor of Massachusetts when you look at his record as governor.

Following the debate, MSNBC's David Shuster noted McCain's response in a fact check, asserting, "John McCain was asked a question that included a quote about McCain talking about economics. And McCain denied the quote." After airing a video clip of the exchange, Shuster asserted: "Well, actually, NBC News got that quote from last month. John McCain was heard saying on December 17th in The Boston Globe and Time magazine, quote, 'The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got [former Federal Reserve chairman Alan] Greenspan's book.' " Following Shuster's fact check, MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked Newsweek's Howard Fineman, "Howard, the 'Straight Talk Express': Did it stall tonight? Was it derailed by his denial of a quote that's on the record?" In his response, Fineman asserted, "You can't pretend that you didn't say something you said. You just can't wish it away."

From the February 3 Washington Post article:

CHICAGO -- In the final days before Tuesday's coast-to-coast presidential voting, the two leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are laying bare the ideological struggle inside their party over shaping a post-George W. Bush era.

Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) offers rock-solid fealty to President Bush's Iraq war policy but more than hints at creating a new spirit of cooperation with Democrats on global warming, health-care policy, illegal immigration, ethics and lobbying regulations.

By contrast, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney pledges to change a "broken" Washington but provides little evidence that he would alter the course of Republican ideology, which traces its roots to Ronald Reagan and extends to the current presidency.

"I guess I think there's going to be a real battle here for which way the Republican Party is going to head," Romney told reporters as he campaigned in Southern California. Speaking later to supporters at a rally, he raised the question again: "What's the direction for the Republican Party?"

The answer to that question is likely to come on Tuesday, when millions of Republican voters confront the choices that a chaotic, year-long primary campaign has left them: A Cold War-era soldier with little regard for partisanship vs. a business chief executive and reformed moderate who has embraced the conservative agenda.

[...]

Much of McCain's campaign has focused on promoting specific policies and appealing to niche groups that play to his strengths. He has assiduously courted members of the military and veterans. And he has defined his presidential bid as a mission to confront terrorism. "If it wasn't for this challenge, if it wasn't for Iraq, I don't know if I'd be running for president," he said.

"Of course, I know more about national security than any other issue," he told Tim Russert on NBC News's "Meet the Press" late last month, when asked about his economic expertise. "It's been my entire life."

McCain seems distinctly uninterested when asked questions concerning abortion and gay rights. While campaigning in South Carolina, he told reporters riding with him on his bus that he was comfortable pledging to appoint judges who would strictly interpret the Constitution in part because it would reassure conservatives who might otherwise distrust him.

Posted In
Economy
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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