Fox News' Carl Cameron falsely suggested that Sen. John McCain acknowledged weakness on economic issues only once, "[i]n one of those marathon interactions with reporters on the bus," while NBC's Andrea Mitchell baselessly asserted that McCain was "obviously joking" when he admitted his lack of knowledge about the economy. In fact, McCain has made such an acknowledgement on numerous occasions over the course of the campaign, and when confronted with one such remark at a Republican presidential debate, McCain did not respond by asserting that he had been "joking" -- he suggested he hadn't said it.
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On the June 9 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron said of Sen. John McCain: "In one of those marathon interactions with reporters on the bus, he said that, 'Look, I perhaps don't know as much about the economy as I should,' which was meant to say his strong suit is national security. Instead, it's become sort of a bumper sticker slogan for McCain's supposed admission that he's not up to speed on the economy." But contrary to Cameron's suggestion that McCain acknowledged weakness on economic issues only once, "[i]n one of those marathon interactions with reporters on the bus," McCain has acknowledged "on numerous occasions over the course of the campaign ... that he is unsatisfied with his lack of knowledge about aspects of economics," as The Boston Globe documented in a January 26 article. Moreover, at least one of the instances in which McCain contrasted his admitted lack of knowledge of the economy with his purported knowledge of foreign policy occurred during an interview with The Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore at a "coffee table" in McCain's "Senate office," not during "one of those marathon interactions with reporters on the bus."
Additionally, on the June 10 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, NBC chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell asserted that "it's hard for John McCain to get away from all the other things he's said about the economy, notably that he didn't know much about it, obviously joking, in a town hall I believe in New Hampshire, but that's going to haunt him." Mitchell offered no support for her assertion that McCain was "obviously joking" when he acknowledged his lack of knowledge about the economy. Indeed, when McCain was asked to explain one of the numerous statements he has made about his lack of economic knowledge during a January 24 Republican presidential debate, he responded by suggesting he had not said it at all, rather than state that he had been "joking." Presented during the debate with his statement that he knew "a lot less about economics" than "military and foreign policy issues," McCain responded, "I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well-versed in economics."
The January 26 Globe article included several quotes in which McCain mentioned his "lack of knowledge" about economics, going back as far as 2005:
"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," McCain told the Wall Street Journal in late November.
In December he said, "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," as the Globe reported on its "Political Intelligence" blog at the time.
On at least one occasion, McCain has raised the matter himself. On Nov. 10, while traveling through New Hampshire on his Straight Talk Express bus, McCain was asked what he would seek in a vice presidential candidate if nominated.
After mentioning the ability of a potential running mate to replace the president, McCain said, "You also look for people who maybe have talents you don't, or experience or knowledge you don't, as well."
"What are those qualities that you don't -- that you wouldn't mind complementing?" asked David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times.
McCain paused. "Uh, maybe I shouldn't say this, but, somebody who's really well grounded in economics," he said.
"I think I understand the fundamentals, I talk to people all the time on economics -- it's obviously a vital part of America's future," McCain continued. "But I know there are some people who have literally immersed themselves on issues of economics, how Congress works on it, the tax code, that sort of thing. I would look for that kind of talent not in a vice president but in close advisers."
"They are complicated," McCain said of economic issues, "and I freely admit I am not an economist."
Moore's Wall Street Journal article is dated November 26, 2005; the Political Intelligence blog entry, dated December 18, 2007, reported: " 'The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should,' McCain said. 'I've got Greenspan's book.' " Both have previously been noted by Media Matters for America.
On the April 7 edition of Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski similarly suggested that McCain had only once commented on his lack of economic knowledge, saying: "What about this whole -- I mean, I almost think it's been blown out of proportion, Joe -- but people are talking about the way John McCain, you know, once said, 'I don't know too much about the economy.' Is he prepared to lead this nation through a recession?"
From the June 10 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
BRZEZINSKI: Well, they are, and the differences between these candidates are enormous in terms of approach and sort of how to guide this country into the future. How would you say the biggest challenges -- what are the biggest challenges for each one on the economy? What's going to cause problems for Barack Obama, what's going to cause problems for John McCain?
MITCHELL: Well, I think clearly for John McCain, the problem is the White House. Bush policies, the fact that the Republicans in Congress who are supposed to be balancing budgets and not overspending, spent so much that the Democrats got elected in 2006. That was at least one of the reasons; the war obviously another. But you've got the Republican Party now really tagged with responsibility for what's gone wrong, fairly or unfairly, and that makes it slightly easier, I think, for the Democrats. All things being equal, you see a preference for Democrats in those national opinion polls which say which party would you support. Change is a better message than the status quo.
So it is hard for John McCain. And it's hard for John McCain to get away from all the other things he's said about the economy, notably that he didn't know much about it, obviously joking in a town hall, I believe, in New Hampshire, but that's going to haunt him.
SCARBOROUGH: Boy, I'm sure he's glad he made that joke.
From the June 9 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:
KELLY: Before I let you go, what about this business -- Obama's hit McCain hard on the fact that he admitted long ago, a couple of months ago anyway, that he didn't know that much about the economy, and that's been a talking point for the Democrats and will continue to be. You asked him about it. What did he say?
CAMERON: Well, Senator McCain says an awful lot of stuff on the bus and on the plane, the "Straight Talk Expresses," that he often grows to regret in fairly short order. In one of those marathon interactions with reporters on the bus, he said that, "Look, I perhaps don't know as much about the economy as I should," which was meant to say his strong suit is national security. Instead, it's become sort of a bumper sticker slogan for McCain's supposed admission that he's not up to speed on the economy. He says that's not true.
He points to his record in the Senate, his chairmanship of the Commerce Department, where he dealt with a whole series of issues, and says when you actually look at the facts and look at the history, he's been involved in the economy. Barack Obama's been on the Senate for 3 1/2 years and most of that has been on the campaign trail talking about it and not doing much, at least in McCain's view.