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Obama, McCain suffer friendly fire

Latest update : 2008-07-14

The two main contenders for the White House have finally got down to the tough issues. Both, however, spent the best part of last week trying to limit the damage caused by ill-advised comments coming from their own camps.

In recent weeks, the two main contenders for the White House have finally got down to the tough issue of curing the United States’ troubled economy. Republican candidate John McCain and Democrat rival Barack Obama have begun putting forward their plans for the troubled US economy, amid soaring oil prices and fears of recession.

Both, however, spent the best part of last week trying to limit the damage wrought by ill-advised comments coming from their own camps.

Obama was the first to suffer a blow, at the hands of civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson, a former acolyte of Martin Luther King. In crude remarks caught by an open microphone on the set of Fox News on July 8, Jackson complained that Obama could seem to be “talking down to black people at times,” before suggesting he wished to “cut his nuts off”.

While the reverend was quick to apologise, the episode soon spiralled into a huge scandal. Fortunately for Obama, however, a helping hand came from the opposing camp, as an incident in the McCain campaign quickly stole the spotlight. 

 
In an interview with the Washington Times, the Republican candidate’s economic adviser Phil Gramm suggested Americans were in a “mental recession”, while the US was a nation of “whiners”.

Of course, Obama was quick to pounce on the opportunity. “When people are losing their homes and property values are declining,” he said in a fiery speech, “it isn’t whining to ask government to step in and give families some relief”.

Meanwhile, McCain could do little besides trying to control the damage. “Phil Gramm does not speak for me, I speak for me,” was his terse reply.

Yet, the damage was done, casting further doubt on McCain’s credentials on economic policy, just a few months after he admitted that the economy was not his strong suit.  

As FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Washington, Guillaume Meyer, explains, “John McCain’s hesitation when it comes to economic questions could cost him dearly.” Indeed, according to a recent poll, Americans worry much more about the economy than any other issue, including the war in Iraq.
 

Date created : 2008-07-14

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