Robert Novak reports–and his reporting is not always spot-on–that John McCain has forgiven Phil Gramm after Gramm called America a “nation of whiners” and dismissed current economic troubles as nothing more than a “mental recession.” According to Novak, “Gramm will continue as an adviser and surrogate” for McCain. Gramm is still cochairman of McCain’s presidential campaign.
This reporting counters recent news stories that Gramm has been nudged aside within McCainland. If it is true, Democrats can only respond this way: good! Gramm is a wonderful–and deserving–target for Dems and the Obama campaign. But not only because his out-of-touch remarks seemed to reflect the inner thinking of McCain and his advisers. Gramm represents much of what has gone wrong with the economy. As chairman of the Senate banking committee, he championed relentless deregulation that led in part to the subprime mess and to the Enron debacle. After leaving the Senate, he then became a lobbyist and executive for Swiss bank giant UBS. (Remember when McCain used to blast lobbyists?) These days UBS is in the news for allowing wealthy American clients to park money off-shore (perhaps illegally) to avoid taxes.
So McCain was happy to recruit Gramm for his campaign–despite his past record, ideas, policies, and lobbying activity–and look to him for economic advice. He saw nothing wrong with Grammonomics. That’s the issue, more so than Gramm’s impolitic comments. And if Novak is right–and that may be a nice-sized if–the Gramm issue remains, for Phil Gramm remains within the warm embrace of John McCain.
UPDATE: On Friday, Gramm quit as cochairman of the McCain campaign. Maybe Novak got it wrong. But Gramm did not say he would no longer be advising McCain.