With close friends like Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) acknowledging that a focus on the economy has been bad for Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) presidential campaign, his adviser have announced a strategy for “turning a page on this financial crisis” in order to stop “talking” about the economy. But on the defensive about trying to avoid the most important issue of the day, senior McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer argued on Fox News today that McCain “has made the economy, and his economic policies, just really, the fulcrum of his whole campaign”:
PFOTENHAUER: Now, obviously, Senator McCain has made the economy, and his economic policies, just really, the fulcrum of his whole campaign. I mean, we spend about 80 percent of our time talking about it, unless Russia invades Georgia, and then there’s a little bit of a sidebar. But we spend most of our time focusing on those things because Senator McCain cares so much about it. And he’s been very clear, if I can be biased, he has a very comprehensive plan to get the economy back on track and we spend almost all of our time advocating it.
In reality, McCain has made every effort he can to talk about anything but the economy. In June, Fortune magazine asked McCain what he saw as “the gravest long-term threat to the U.S. economy.” Instead of mentioning an actual economic issue, McCain paused for 11 seconds before saying “radical Islamic extremism“:
He’s looking not at us but into the void. His eyes are narrowed. Nine seconds of silence, ten seconds, 11. Finally he says, “Well, I would think that the absolute gravest threat is the struggle that we’re in against radical Islamic extremism, which can affect, if they prevail, our very existence. Another successful attack on the United States of America could have devastating consequences.”
McCain’s pivot in his interview with Fortune is similar to the pivot he made during a primary debate earlier this year. Asked about why he was “qualified” to “manage our economy,” McCain said that his military background gave him “the vision and the knowledge and the background to take on the transcendent issue of the 21st century, which is radical Islamic extremism.”
Considering that McCain has previously admitted that he knows “a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues,” it’s not surprising that he would often choose to talk about “radical Islamic extremism” instead of the economy. What is surprising is that McCain’s advisers believe they can credibly claim McCain has made the economy “the fulcrum” of his campaign.