A front-page story in Wednesday's Times by Michael Cooper wrenched John McCain's "strong" economy remarks out of context and spread doubts on hiseconomic expertise ("McCain Laboring To Hit Right Note On The Economy").
On Monday morning, as the financial system absorbed one of its biggest shocks in generations, Senator John McCain said, as he had many times before, that he believed the fundamentals of the economy were "strong."
Hours later he backpedaled, explaining that he had meant that American workers, whom he described as the backbone of the economy, were productive and resilient. By Tuesday he was calling the economic situation "a total crisis" and denouncing "greed" on Wall Street and in Washington.
The sharp turnabout in tone and substance reflected a recognition not only that Mr. McCain had struck a discordant note at a sensitive moment but also that he had done so with regard to the very issue on which he can least afford to stumble.
With economic conditions worsening over the course of this year and voter anxiety on the rise, Mr. McCain has had to labor to get past the impression - fostered by his own admissions as recently as last year that the subject is not his strongest suit - that he lacks the experience and understanding to address the nation's economic woes.
Cooper waited until paragraph 13 to quote McCain in full. What McCain actually said Monday at a rally in Jacksonville, Fla., doesn't sound like a man blind to the country's economic problems:
There's tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and on Wall Street. People are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong. But these are very, very difficult times. And I promise you we will never put America in this position again. We will clean up Wall Street. We will reform government. And this is a failure.
Interestingly, Cooper (with contributing reporting from four other reporters) then admitted that on the broader economic outlook, McCain is right:
His statement about the strength of the economy's fundamentals was one he has made for nearly a year now, usually adding that times are tough or people are hurting. And in some ways, given that the recession that many have feared all that time has yet to be officially proclaimed, he has been borne out.