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McCain's 24 Hour Flip-Flop on the Bush Economy

April 20, 2008

Ever since Ronald Reagan famously asked Americans in 1980 if they were better off now than four years ago, answering the question has been a pre-requisite for aspiring White House hopefuls. This week, Republican nominee John McCain twice tried to supply a response when asked about the eight years of the Bush economy. His changing answers of "yes" and "no" on consecutive days set a new flip-flopping record, even for John McCain.
On April 17th, Senator McCain was interviewed on Bloomberg TV by Peter Cook. Cook posed Ronald Reagan's Carter-killing question to McCain, the self-proclaimed footsoldier in the Reagan revolution. And to be sure, John McCain was proud to declare "that there's been great progress economically" during the Bush presidency.

MR. COOK: I'm going to ask you a version of the Ronald Reagan question. 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?
SEN. MCCAIN: [...] I think if you look at the overall record and millions of jobs have been created, et cetera, et cetera, you could 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. We're the greatest exporter, the greatest importer, the greatest innovator, the greatest producer, still the greatest economic engine in the world...

But within 24 hours, John McCain's answer to the "are you better off now" question underwent an extreme make-over. Facing the inescapable twin discomforts of an economy actually in recession and the downside of cozying up to George W. Bush, McCain reversed course in another Bloomberg TV appearance, this time with Al Hunt. As Bloomberg reported Friday, April 18:

John McCain distanced himself from President George W. Bush's economic policies, saying Americans are "hurting badly" and haven't fared well under this administration.
"Americans are not better off than they were eight years ago," McCain said in an interview on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt," to be aired today.

In his defense, John McCain's academic record suggests he's never been a very good test taker. (McCain, after all, finished fifth from the bottom in a U.S. Naval Academy class of 899.) So the next time John McCain is asked, "are the American people better now than eight years ago when George W. Bush came to office?" the answer is no:

Oil and gas prices are at record levels, having tripled during President Bush's tenure. The nation is gripped by the twin crises of the housing market and the financial system. The unemployment rate is now higher than when Bush took office. The dollar is at all time lows versus the yen, the euro and other currencies. Most importantly, recent studies show the Bush economic expansion was the first since World War II in which median family income actually declined.

Not exactly John McCain's "great progress economically."


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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