The Republicans have raised getting voters to vote against their interest into an art form. However, the American public has seen how well that has worked and public opinion polls show that by and large, we're not buying it any longer. It leaves precious little for someone like Republican presumptive nominee John McCain to run on. He can't run on a continuation of the policies by arguably the least popular President in history, but he can't go too afar from the Republican principles that his base requires. It's a tightrope that all of his proxies have struggled with, but none so much as Lindsey Graham. When asked point blank how McCain will differentiate himself from Bush's economic policies, he has no answer other than to deride Barack Obama.
The great bugaboo of higher taxes under Obama gets raised by Graham, but is neatly deflected by Kerry pointing out that those who really need the tax breaks -- the working class -- will get them and if McSame is so worried about hurting the economy, why has he not supported, much less championed, policies that would truly get him away from Bush's cronyism and help keep jobs in America?
Transcripts below the fold
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me begin with the economy, because that is going to be the number one issue, both sides agree, in this campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to show something that Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Senator McCain's top economic adviser said just the other day about President Bush.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN, SENATOR MCCAIN'S ECONOMIC ADVISER: The only thing that he shares in common with President Bush is the understanding of good tax policy. Sadly, it seems that's all President Bush understood of the economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That was one of the toughest shots by a McCain official yet against President Bush and his economic policy. So, setting aside climate change, which we've heard about, how will
Senator McCain be different from President Bush on the economy, in a way that makes a difference?
GRAHAM: Well, I think the main thing is he's going to be different than Senator Obama, because those are your two choices. I mean, this is not the Wharton Business School against the London School of Economics. You've got a liberal in Senator Obama, who will repeal the Bush tax cuts that expire in 2011. The capital gains rates will go up. Dividend tax reductions will go down. The marginal rates will all go up. John will say keep the tax rates in place. He will be talking about energy independence. One way to help our economy is stop sending $450 billion overseas, with oil prices this high. Look for oil and gas in our backyard; find alternative energies to get away from fossil fuel consumption. And at the end of the day, stop spending. There's been nobody -- President Bush's biggest failure is not vetoing pork barrel spending. That is one of the big disappointments of President Bush. One of the big differences between Senator Obama, President Bush and anybody else in Washington is that John McCain is going to bring a sense of fiscal discipline and energy to controlling spending you haven't seen in a while.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Kerry, you've heard it right there, it's taxes and spending.
KERRY: Well, if the wish were the father to the fact, Lindsey Graham would be a happy person right now, but that's all he's offered, is a wish. The fact is that John McCain voted 95 percent of the time with George Bush last year, and 90 percent of the time with George Bush over the entire presidency. That's not a change. That's not reform. That's not a difference. And on the economy, it's profound for the American worker and people who are struggling today. Barack Obama wants to give every worker $1,000 reduction in their taxes. So he's going to give a tax cut to the middle class and for people struggling to get into it. For people earning $50,000 or less, who are retired, he's going to do no taxes for them, and he's going to pay for all of this and be fiscally responsible by not continuing the irresponsible Bush tax cuts that this nation at the high level cannot afford, George.
And if you look at, I mean, you know, John McCain said himself that he doesn't know anything about the economy. He said he's going to have to have a vice president who knows something about the economy in order to help him on it. And if you look at almost every issue --health care. John McCain doesn't have a policy to be able to try to reform health care and reduce costs. That is a business issue, because businesses are drowning under the weight of health care costs. And you have to have a comprehensive reform. Barack Obama has one; John McCain doesn't. I can go down a long list.