NYT Smothers McCain's Conservative Tax-Cut Plan with Dem Assaults

Republican candidate John McCain called for tax cuts in a speech delivered in Pittsburgh on Tax Day, but instead of straightforwardly laying out his proposals, Wednesday's off-lead story by McCain-beat reporter Michael Cooper smothered the plan's launch with nitpicking and Democratic broadsides.

Senator John McCain offered the broadest look yet at his economic policies in a speech on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, outlining a series of tax reductions and backing away from his pledge to balance the budget by the end of his first term.

The speech, delivered on the deadline for filing taxes, afforded the clearest view to date of what McCainomics might look like. There was a dash of populism, as Mr. McCain criticized executive pay and corporate wrongdoing. There was a strong supply-side bent, with Mr. McCain focusing on cutting corporate taxes and making permanent the Bush tax cuts that he once opposed. And there was a decidedly less hawkish note on deficits, as Mr. McCain called for spending cuts but did not mention balancing the federal budget.

With the address, Mr. McCain labored to overcome the impression that he does not understand the economy well, and the idea being pushed by his Democratic rivals that he does not comprehend the economic pain felt by many Americans.

Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, spoke at length about those economic hardships and suggested he might well break with the economic policies of President Bush and former President Ronald Reagan. "It will not be enough to simply dust off the economic policies of four, eight or 28 years ago," he said in the speech, at Carnegie Mellon University. "We have our own work to do."

With slippery, Democrat-approved language, Cooper resists calling Clinton and Obama tax-hikers, as if the tax-rate cuts pushed through by Bush were some anomaly that needs to be "rolled back" to its previously normal (i.e., higher) rate.

Mr. McCain painted his Democratic rivals, who want to roll back some of the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy to pay for their health care plans, as tax raisers. "They're going to raise your taxes by thousands of dollars per year, and they have the audacity to hope you don't mind," he said, in an allusion to the title of one of Mr. Obama's books, "The Audacity of Hope."

Cooper granted ample rebuttal space to the Clinton camp, the Obama camp, even the Democratic National Committee:

Mr. Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, responded: "Senator McCain's economic plan offers no change from George Bush's failed policies by going full speed ahead with fiscally irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that John McCain himself once said offended his conscience. He also proposes a gift basket of new tax cuts for corporate America at a time when some C.E.O.'s are making more in a day than some workers make in a year. John McCain's plan is one that could have been written by the corporate lobbyists who run his campaign, and probably was."

Mrs. Clinton's policy director, Neera Tanden, said Mr. McCain's tax cuts would most benefit corporations, while Mrs. Clinton's would most help middle-class families. "John McCain promises straight talk," Ms. Tanden said in a statement. "But his speech today is really double talk. Senator McCain spoke about the excesses of companies like Countrywide. But what he fails to mention was that Countrywide would have received a $500 million tax cut under his plan."