Eight years ago, then Governor George W. Bush revealingly joked about his backers at the 2000 Al Smith Dinner. "This is an impressive crowd - the haves and the have-mores," Bush said, adding, "Some people call you the elites; I call you my base." With his own quip Saturday night that "$5 million" is his definition of rich," John McCain made no mistake that he is Bush's natural heir.
Now, there is nothing wrong with being happily rich and utterly detached. Nothing, that is, unless you make criticizing your political opponent as "elitist" and "out of touch" a centerpiece of your campaign. Which is why McCain beat a hasty retreat in an interview today with the Politico. (In that same interview, McCain with no sense of irony called lobbyists "birds of prey.") Without naming a number, McCain said:
"I define rich in other ways besides income. Some people are wealthy and rich in their lives and their children and their ability to educate them. Others are poor if they’re billionaires."
Of course, by any accounting, the $100 million McCains are fabulously well-off (see the gold-plated details below the fold). But John McCain's staggering detachment from the real lives of the American people can truly be measured in dollars – and sense.
For starters, McCain in April declared that there had been "great progress economically" during the Bush years. On more than one occasion, he diagnosed Americans' concerns over the dismal U.S. economy as "psychological." (Phil Gramm, McCain's close friend and adviser supposedly excommunicated over his "whiners" remarks, was back with the campaign last week.) McCain, a man who owns eight homes nationwide, in March lectured Americans facing foreclosure that they ought to be "doing what is necessary -- working a second job, skipping a vacation, and managing their budgets -- to make their payments on time." And when all else fails, McCain told the people of the economically devastated regions in Martin County, Kentucky and Youngstown, Ohio, there's always eBay.
In his defense, McCain's shocking tone-deafness may just be a matter of perspective. When you're as well off as he is, anything below a $5 million income (a figure exceeding that earned on average by the top 0.1% of Americans) seems middle class by comparison.
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