Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was widely ridiculed for his claim that the “fundamentals of our economy are strong” on the very day that two of Wall Street’s major banking institutions collapsed. In an interview with CNBC yesterday, however, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed McCain, stating that the “fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong”:
QUESTION: How does a United States in the middle of a global financial crisis affect diplomatic efforts around the world and your efforts? […]
RICE: Everybody understands that this is a very specific, indeed once-in-a-lifetime – well, we certainly hope – circumstance. But people have confidence in the United States. As the President has said, this is a financial crisis, but the fundamentals of the U.S. economy are strong.
McCain later backtracked, claiming he was simply referring to the American worker. “The American worker and their innovation and their entrepreneurship, the small business, those are the fundamentals of America and I think they’re strong,” he said. Rice cited similar reasons for her assessment:
RICE: Everyone understands our great ability to innovate, the productivity of our workers, the ability of the country to move quickly. And so I believe the United States’ standing has not been really affected.
Rice is making a clam that even the White House now refrains from saying. In a press briefing last week, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, in a tense exchange, refused to side with McCain’s statement about the “fundamentals” of the economy being “strong.” “We have a mixed picture,” Perino concluded.
Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson yesterday also seemed to disagree that any “fundamentals” of the economy are healthy after the financial meltdown. The crisis in the “credit markets…threaten[s] American families’ financial well-being, the viability of businesses both small and large, and the very health of our economy,” he told Congress.