MR. GREGORY: There’s an effort across the administration to sound more confident about the economy. The president, speaking on Friday, said this:
PRES. OBAMA: If we are keeping focused on all the fundamentally sound aspects of our economy, then we’re going to get through this. And I’m very confident about that.
MR. GREGORY: And yet last year during the campaign, Senator John McCain said something similar. This is what he said back then.
(Videotape, September 15, 2008)
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): You know that there’s been tremendous turmoil in our financial markets and Wall Street, and it is–it’s–people are frightened by these events. Our economy, I think–still, the fundamentals our–of our economy are strong, but these are very, very difficult time.
MR. GREGORY: So back then during the campaign when Senator McCain talked about the strong fundamentals of the economy, it was then-candidate Obama and his team that roundly criticized McCain, saying he was out of touch, he didn’t get it, he didn’t understand how bad the economy was. And yet now the president’s talking about the strong fundamentals of the economy. So what’s different between then, the campaign, and now, except for the fact that the economy’s gotten dramatically worse?
DR. ROMER: I think when the president says he’s focusing on fundamentals, what he means is, is we’re focusing on, on fixing the fundamentals; that we’ve always said we’re not looking at the ups and downs of the stock market, we’re looking for those crucial indicators: when are jobs turning around, when are sales turning around, when do we see consumers coming to life? That’s the kind of thing that–certainly that I’m looking at in terms of when’s the economy going to be doing better and, and when can we see some hope.
MR. GREGORY: Are the fundamentals of this economy sound?
DR. ROMER: Well, of course the fundamentals are sound in the sense that the American workers are sound, we have a good capital stock, we have good technology. We know that, that temporarily we’re in a mess, right? We’ve seen huge job loss, we’ve seen very large falls in GDP. So certainly in the short run we’re in a, in a bad situation. [Emphasis added]
MR. GREGORY: All right, but then what’s different between now and then, when the economy was in even better shape than it, it is now, when McCain was saying the fundamentals were strong and then-candidate Obama criticized him?
DR. ROMER: I think–again, I think what, what we’re saying is that the, you know, where we are today is obviously not good. We have a plan in place to get to a good place. I think that’s the crucial–a fundamentally crucial difference, is to make sure that you have put in place all of the comprehensive programs that’ll get us back to those fundamentals.
The other thing I think is so important, the president has actually said in terms of fundamentals, we need to make changes. That’s why he’s focusing on energy, education, getting the budget deficit under control, precisely because he said…
MR. GREGORY: Right.
DR. ROMER: …when we get through this thing, we want to be in a better place.
MR. GREGORY: But perhaps Senator McCain was right when he said the fundamentals of the economy were strong, because you have President Obama saying roughly the same thing now?
DR. ROMER: I really think you’re misinterpreting the president. I think the key thing that the president was saying is we have our eyes on the fundamentals, that is why we’re concerned about.
There is no such thing as the new politics. Say it three times out loud.