Last week, Obama went after McCain on the GI Bill. Over the weekend, Obama continued to hammer away at McCain’s confusion over the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. And yesterday, in a speech in Troy, Michigan, Obama highlighted a classic McCain quote.
“Senator McCain says we have made, and this is a quote, ‘great progress economically’ these past eight years, and he promises more of the same.
“Well, I couldn’t disagree more. Since George Bush took office, we’ve gone through the first period of sustained economic growth since World War II in which the incomes of American workers have actually dropped. 7 million more Americans don’t have health care. 1 million more Americans are out of work. Millions of families are facing foreclosure. You’re working harder for less, and paying more for tuition, more for groceries, and more at the pump.
“To me, this isn’t ‘great progress.’ This is a cause for concern and an impetus for change. Yet Senator McCain wants to double down on the Bush economic plan.... In fact, Senator McCain conceded not long ago that he didn’t know much about the economy. That’s not his interest. That’s not his priority. But it will be mine.”
The “great progress economically” originally came up in mid-April, and it was one of those gems we just knew we’d be hearing again.
When Obama first started pursuing this, a very annoyed McCain campaign responded, “American families are hurting and Barack Obama is being recklessly dishonest. It is clear that Barack Obama is intentionally twisting John McCain’s words completely out of context.”
Is the McCain campaign right? Is the “great progress economically” line being taken out of context? Not so much.
ThinkProgress has the video clip of McCain chatting with Bloomberg Television in April. The reporter offered the senator a “version of the Ronald Reagan question,” and asked, “Do you think if Americans were asked, ‘Are you better off today than you were before George Bush took office more than seven years ago?’ What answer would they give?”
“Certainly, at this time, we’re in very challenging times. We all recognize that. Families are sitting around the kitchen table this evening and figuring out whether they’re going to be able to keep their home or not. They’re figuring out whether they’re, why it is that suddenly and recently someone in their family or their neighbor has lost their job. There’s no doubt that we’re in enormous difficulties.
“I think if you look at the overall record, and millions of jobs having, being created, etc., etc., you can make an argument that there’s been great progress economically, over that period of time. But that’s no comfort, that’s no comfort to families now that are facing these tremendous economic challenges.
“But let me just add, Peter, the fundamentals of America’s economy are strong.”
McCain suggested that he’s familiar with the difficulties currently facing millions of American families, but when asked about the economy under Bush’s leadership, McCain believes that the “overall record” points to “great progress economically” over the last seven years. The context shows that McCain seems vaguely aware of the fact that some have enjoyed this “progress” more than others, but McCain’s overall assessment of the Bush economy is a positive one.
And Obama seems anxious to remind voters about this. My hunch is Republicans will erupt, much the same way they did about the “100 years” line, but the quote is accurate. McCain said it, he meant it, and now he’s being called on it. McCain may wish he could take it back now, but it’s too late.
As for Obama, I can’t help but enjoy seeing a Dem presidential candidate go on the offensive and stay on the offensive, especially on subjects that seem to irritate McCain to no end.
Noting Obama’s rally tonight at the site of the Republican convention, Ezra noted, “If I didn’t know better, I’d say the strategy here is to tweak McCain often enough that he uncorks his famous temper and forces the American people to decide whether they really want to hand the presidency to a cranky, touchy old man. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t know better....”