This week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is traveling through Colombia, making a push for a free-trade agreement. In an interview with ABC this morning from Cartagena, McCain was asked about his now infamous statement that he doesn’t understand economics well. McCain quickly interrupted the interviewer, denying he ever said this:
Q: You have admitted that you’re not exactly an expert when it comes to the economy and many have said —
McCAIN: I have not. I have not. Actually, I have not. I said that I am stronger on national security issues because of all the time I spent in the military. I’m very strong on the economy. I understand it. I have a lot more experience than my opponent.
In fact, McCain and his advisers have repeatedly admitted that he is weak on economic issues:
— “The issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should,” McCain said. “I’ve got Greenspan’s book.” [December 2007]
— Seeking to explain his shift on economic issues, McCain claimed: “I didn’t pay nearly the attention to those issues in the past. I was probably a ’supply-sider’ based on the fact that I really didn’t jump into the issue.” [January 2000]
— Carly Fiorina, a top McCain adviser, acknowledged that McCain has said he knows little about the economy, noting that “he did say it one time, no question, maybe twice.” [6/10/08]
The McCain campaign has conjured up a variety of dodges on the topic. Last January, when Tim Russert asked him about his “I still need to be educated” claim, McCain said, “I don’t know where you got that quote.” Adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin said McCain’s admitted lack of economics knowledge was an example of his “wonderful self-deprecating sense of humor.” Last month, McCain said the media took the comments “out of context.”