The United States is not in a recession. But the crew of the "Today" show does not care about the facts. On the July 11 edition, the NBC morning program focused on McCain adviser Phil Gramm’s "mental recession" and "nation of whiners" comment.
Instead of actually examining the facts behind Senator Gramm’s opinion, "Today" instead chose to focus on the "damage" to the McCain campaign. Lauer opened the show with the cliche phrase "with friends like these," and noting McCain is "distancing himself from his friend" and proceded to ask "has the damage been done?" Lauer then introduced the story claiming the remarks "could spell problems for Senator John McCain’s campaign."
Perhaps a fair story would examine whether Senator Gramm’s statements ring true or not. While the "nation of whiners" comment is Mr. Gramm’s opinion, his remark that we are not in a recession is a fact.
The economic definition of a recession is "a period of economic decline; specifically a decline in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters."
According to Bloomberg News, the economy grew at a slow rate, but nevertheless grew in the last two quarters.
"The economy probably grew 1.5 percent in the second quarter, as growing exports helped counter weakness in manufacturing and construction, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists taken the first week of July. The economy grew 1 percent in the first quarter, when net exports contributed 0.8 percentage point to the expansion."
The entire transcript, including opening teasers, is below.
MATT LAUER: Good morning. With friends like these: One of John McCain's closest advisors has harsh words for Americans calling us a nation from whiners when it comes to the economy. McCain is distancing himself from his friend, but has the damage been done?
MEREDITH VIEIRA: I'm Meredith Vieira. We talked about the high cost of gas and food and the housing crisis for months now. But apparently one of John McCain's top economic advisors sees things a little bit differently.
LAUER: Quite a bit differently. In an interview with "The Washington Times," former Senator Phil Gramm said that the country is in a mental recession and not a real one. This is Phil Gramm who has a long and some would say impressive resume when it comes to the economy. But Democrats were quick to jump on his remarks and it didn't take John McCain very long to distance himself from them as well. So just ahead, the impact his Gramm's comments could have on the presidential race. We're going to get Jim Cramer's take on this topic as well.
VIEIRA: And he always has a take.
LAUER: Let's start though this morning with the election and the economy in remarks that could spell problems for Senator John McCain's campaign. NBC's Andrea Mitchell has more on this. Andrea, good morning to you.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Matt. As you've been discussing, John McCain is now running as fast as he can to get away from one of his closest economic advisor who called Americans a nation of whiners when it comes to the bad economy. In Michigan, a battleground state where the economy is on everybody's mind, John McCain wasted no time throwing his economic advisor, Phil Gramm, under the bus.
SENATOR JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): Phil Gramm does not speak for me. I speak for me. So I strongly disagree.
MITCHELL: Gramm, a former senator and PhD. economist told "The Washington Times" Americans are suffering from a mental recess recession, not a real one.
FORMER SENATOR PHIL GRAMM (R-TX): You've heard a mental depression, this is a mental recession. We've never had more natural advantages as we had today. We've sort of become a nation of whiners.
MITCHELL: McCain's problem, he and Gramm have been friends for decades, ever since Gramm co-sponsored landmark legislation to control federal spending and this year Gramm has been a top McCain economic advisor.
McCAIN: There is no one in America that is more respected on the issue of economics than Senator Phil Gramm. So I'm honored you are here, Phil.
MITCHELL: Barack Obama saw the opening and pounced.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D-IL): America already has one Dr. Phil. We don't need another one.
MITCHELL: And McCain was so eager to distance himself from Gramm, he said his old friend would no longer be a candidate for Treasury secretary in a McCain administration.
McCAIN: I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus. Although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk could welcome that.
MITCHELL: Belarus, an outlaw state, is far worse than Siberia in the old days. But even Minsk might not be far enough to control the political damage.
CHUCK TODD: McCain was already seen as somebody that was struggling to show that he was in touch on the issue of the economy. This just made his job that much harder.
MITCHELL: Today McCain will go to another battle ground state, Wisconsin and try again to get back on message about how much he cares about the economy.