New York Times-MSNBC contributor John Harwood took his usual Tuesday afternoon slot on the cable network to interview Elisabeth Bumiller, the Times's lead reporter on the McCain campaign beat. Bumiller has a history of hostile coverage of McCain and Republicans, and did nothing to shake that perception on Tuesday, passing along as fact Barack Obama's out-of-context assault on the comment McCain made on Monday (as the crisis on Wall Street unfolded) about the strong fundamentals of the U.S. economy.
Bumiller: "On the other hand, McCain has had a very rough 24 hours, when he said on Monday that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. The Obama campaign will never let him forget that comment. He then came out a few hours later and said, well, the economy is in crisis. This morning he had revised his comments yet again, and now it is that the American worker is strong, but the economy is still in crisis. And now as we see, he's calling for a commission to study the problems on Wall Street, which is a tried-and-true Washington solution to, when there's little else you can do right away."
Harwood then played the full clip from McCain in Florida, putting in context what he said about the economy:
McCain: "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."
Harwood then questioned the Obama (and Bumiller) assumption that McCain had made some horrible gaffe.
Harwood: "Now Elisabeth, the Obama campaign as you know has done a lot of complaining about lies from, what they say are lies, from the John McCain campaign. When you listen to that sound-bite in its totality, isn't it a cheap shot to say that John McCain was bragging about how good the economy was to that crowd?"
Bumiller: "Well -- he said that many, many times in this campaign that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. I'm not going to say it was a cheap shot or not, I just think that it was very much of the wrong tone in the middle of the day on Monday when clearly the markets were in crisis, Wall Street was in crisis. And we can see that McCain himself pulled back from it later on the day and has not said it since."