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Obama Drives Home the “Mental Recession” Wedge

Barack Obama’s campaign must have felt it was Christmas in July when they heard about the Phil Gramm "mental recession/nation of whiners" gaffe that Christy wrote about this morning. Given the large number of low-information voters in the U.S., our presidential elections frequently turn not on policy details but rather the broad question of which candidate symbolically represents the "ordinary American" — and not only did Gramm’s remarks give Obama an opening in that regard, but they happened on a day when he was campaigning with Hillary Clinton specifically to shore up his working-class-hero credentials.

Here’s the text of Obama’s remarks:

. . . when you look at our records and plans on the economic issues that matter most for women, it becomes very clear that [Sen. McCain] won’t bring the change we need – while I will.

That starts with acknowledging the economic difficulties so many women are facing right now. Senator McCain, however, has said that we’ve made "great progress" on the economy. And Senator Phil Gramm, a top economic advisor to Senator McCain, just recently said that this is merely "a mental recession." Senator Gramm then deemed the United States – and I quote – "a nation of whiners." This comes after Senator McCain recently admitted that his energy proposals will have mainly "psychological" benefits.

Well, you know, America already has one Dr. Phil. When it comes to the economy, we don’t need another.

Let’s be clear, when people are struggling with the rising costs of everything from gas to groceries, when we’ve lost 438,000 jobs over the past six months, when typical families have seen their incomes fall nearly $1,000 since 2000, this economic downturn isn’t in our heads. It isn’t whining to ask for more than just psychological relief.

And I think it’s time we had a President who doesn’t deny our problems – or blame the American people for them – but takes responsibility and provides the leadership to solve them. That’s the kind of President I will be.

But you really need to watch the video above to see how Obama milked the opportunity for all it was worth, talking in his best casual, regular-guy style — complete with impromptu "Whoa!" to underscore the ridiculousness of Gramm’s comments.

I guess Gramm was demonstrating the keen political instincts and timing that fueled his own run for the White House a dozen years ago (he dropped out early in the primaries, having spent $20 million and earning only 8 — count ’em, 8 — delegates). Of course, McCain was familiar with Gramm’s past, since he was a chairman of the campaign. Can’t see why you’d want to break up a winning team like that…

 (Video via TPM.)

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Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (