Two network news reporters on July 11 acknowledged that controversial comments from a top economic advisor to Republican presidential candidate John McCain have been taken out of context. That didn’t stop them both from using the comments to make McCain look bad and his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, look strong.
“The story on the McCain side has to do with one of his top advisors, who seemed to suggest that the mortgage mess, the gas prices crisis, all those problems are just in people’s heads,” David Wright reported on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” Gramm said in comments widely circulated by the media. “We’ve sort of become a nation of whiners.”
Some in the media have suggested Gramm meant to that “the bad economy is just a figment of people’s imagination,” as Wright reported on the ABC “World News with Charles Gibson” July 10.
“Well, it’s not exactly what former Sen. Phil Gramm meant,” Wright acknowledged on the July 11 “Good Morning America.”
Economic growth has stayed positive, which means the nation is not in a recession – yet the media have told people that fact doesn’t matter as long as you “feel” you’re in a recession. That’s the “mental recession” Gramm referenced.
Yet Wright went on to say that Gramm’s words “have been damaging at a time when McCain is trying to convince voters he feels their pain.” Wright suggested Gramm “has little sympathy for people complaining about the economy.”
The twisting of Gramm’s words continued on the CBS “Early Show.”
CBS’s Bill Plante said Gramm “seemed to be blowing off people who were worried about the economy as a bunch of whiners.” He later added Gramm “questioned the true extent of the country’s economic downturn.”
Like Wright, Plante admitted that “Gramm said that he’d only been talking about the nation’s leaders,” but offered that “the comment played right into the Democrats’ charge that Republicans are a bunch of plutocrats who don’t care about the average voter.”
Neither of the segments mentioned who Gramm was really criticizing: the media.
“But no politician can talk about, ‘Well things are not as bad as we think,’ because that sounds like they don’t care,” Gramm told The Washington Times. “The media is a leading indicator of a downturn and it’s a lagging indicator of an upturn because you got a human interest story of people losing their jobs. Misery sells newspapers.”
“There are still a lot of good things happening in the American economy. We’re more competitive internationally. We’re in the midst of an export boom in manufacturing,” he said.
He also gave international perspective that a lot of media coverage of the U.S. economy has lacked.
“We have been huge beneficiaries of the change which has occurred,” Gramm said. “The losers have been countries like India and China and yet you just hear this constant whining, complaining about our loss of our competitiveness, America in decline. We’ve never been more dominant.”
And neither network report mentioned that Gramm was right when he asserted that “we’re not in a recession.” The technical definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of economic decline. If the country is in a recession – as the media insist – then it’s all in our heads.