Barely a day after the entire campaign was overshadowed by Jesse Jackson's castration threat, we have a whole new gaffe to harp on! Yesterday the fickle, unforgiving spotlight turned toward John McCain's top economic adviser, former senator Phil Gramm, after he claimed America has become a "nation of whiners" and that we've been experiencing only a "mental recession." Gramm has refused to back off his comments, but McCain quickly distanced himself. (He also had a funny answer when asked what Gramm's role in his administration might be: "I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that." Jeez, talk about throwing someone under the bus.) It's exhausting that the focus of the election zigs and zags with every successive surrogate gaffe. Except, in this case, many believe that Gramm's misstep could cause trouble for quite a while.
• Howard Fineman calls Gramm a "one-man thundercloud" with "one of the more boneheaded remarks in recent presidential politics." While "technically, we may in fact not be in a recession," that "misses the point" that many people are struggling with rising costs and unemployment. [Newsweek]
• Chuck Todd and friends write that Gramm's comments not only threw McCain "way off message," but more important, "combined with McCain calling Social Security 'a disgrace,'" amounted to "flypaper for the 'out of touch' label, something both candidates have been desperately trying to avoid." The result is that McCain has to "stick to focusing on the economy even more than he wants." [First Read/MSNBC]
• Matthew Yglesias says an argument over whether the "economic downturn is real or else some kind of mass hallucination doesn't strike me as a minor economic policy issue" and "if McCain doesn't agree with his top economics surrogates about it, he probably needs a new team." [Atlantic]
• Michael Shear and Jonathan Weisman write that "McCain faced an uphill climb even before his campaign's recent miscues" since many Americans blame President Bush for the economy and McCain has already admitted that "economic policy is not his strong suit." [WP]
• Jim Geraghty sighs and wishes Gramm had at the very least "listed some of the figures who prompt him to declare us 'a nation of whiners,'" like professional athletes, Hollywood celebrities, and "the gay guy suing the Bible publisher for defamation." [Campaign Spot/National Review]
• Marc Ambinder believes Gramm's comment "is technically true but contextually meaningless." It's another example of the push-and-pull for McCain between two kinds of economic conservatives: those, like Gramm, who "experience the world through graphs, charts and data," and those like "policy chief Doug Holtz-Eakin, who experiences the economic world through the language of politics." [Atlantic]
• Chris Cillizza makes the case that "in a vacuum," Gramm's blunder "would have almost no measurable impact on the presidential contest." But they could be "dangerous" for McCain because it fits into the narrative that Obama is trying to create — that McCain is "fundamentally out of touch with the worries and hopes of the average American" and "clueless on the economy." With enough incidents like these, the "the narrative will take hold" and cause real trouble for McCain. [Fix/WP]
• Christopher Beam finds it funny that "Gramm and his investors have felt the pain as much as anyone," as the stock of UBS, where he's the vice-chairman, has "dropped by 70 percent over the last year." [Trailhead/Slate]
• Ed Morrissey thinks McCain took the "politically adept course" by "acknowledging the pain of many in the current economic slowdown, and casting his policies as the answer for the problem." And even though Gramm "tossed some sand in the gears … McCain’s still fortunate to have him as an adviser." [Hot Air] —Dan Amira
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.