On Tuesday Joe Biden laid out a simple challenge to John McCain: to name just one difference between himself and President Bush on the economy.
"Folks, in the most recent debate, John McCain felt the need to declare that he was not President Bush. You know that old expression. You ever heard it? He doth protest too much... Folks, over the course of the three debates, 20 months into the campaign, and eight years of failed economic policies, there's not one fundamental economic issue on which John McCain has challenged George Bush or his policies."
Well all morning McCain surrogates have done their darndest to convince us that McCain is nothing like that George Bush character, whoever he is. Appearing on ABC's This Week, for example, Senator Lindsey Graham said "John McCain is truly an independent, stood up to his own party." But not too long ago Graham was singing a different tune, and it earned him a starring role a DNC web ad put out moments ago looking at how the McCain campaign has addressed this most pivotal question over the months:
Indeed, the McCain campaign has had quite some time to come up with an answer to Joe Biden's challenge, given that the economy has been the top issue on voters' minds, and distancing himself from President Bush has been McCain's top challenge for virtually the entire election. Here's the chronological walk down Memory Lane....
On May 11th, ThinkProgress caught Republican Whip Roy Blunt, #2 Republican in the House playing it positive as a surrogate for McCain on CNN:
WOLF BLITZER: So it would be in effect a third Bush term when it came to pro-growth tax policies?
ROY BLUNT: It would be. I think it would be. And I think that's a good thing.
On June 8th, Lindsey Graham was bold and resolute - to his credit? - on ABC's This Week:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: (Off-camera) Let me bring Senator Graham back in on this because you brought up two. You said the tax policy, and the health care policy. Where essentially, Senator Graham,John McCainis calling for an extension, or maybe even enhancement of the Bush policies..
SENATOR LINDSAY GRAHAM: Absolutely. He wants to lower corporate tax rates. We have the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, second only to Japan. John understands we live in a global economy...
A couple weeks later ThinkProgress was at it again, catching Liz Cheney this time in what some would call "a bit of straight talk" on MSNBC:
CHENEY: At the same time, I think on the really important issues that face the country, on issues like the war on terror and the economy, Senator McCain in fact is advocating those policies that those of us who supported President Bush and the Vice President believe are the right ones for this nation.
On July 13th, though, HuffPo caught South Carolina Governor and then-vice presidential prospect Mark Sanford getting a bit shaky:
WOLF BLITZER: Are there any significant economic differences between what the Bush administration has put forward over these many years as opposed to now what John McCain supports?
MARK SANFORD: Um, yeah. For instance, take, you know, take, for instance, the issue of -- I'm drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television. Take, for instance the contrast on NAFTA. I mean, I think that the bigger issue is credibility in where one is coming from, are they consistent where they come from.
But most recently, John McCain's fellow Republican Senator from Arizona John Kyl took a whack at the question just an hour or so after Biden laid out the challenge. Appearing on MSNBC, Mr. Kyl seemed to lack the resolve of the Graham-Cheney-Blunt trifecta but expressed more certainty in his uncertainty than Gov. Sanford:
Norah O'Donnell: Let me just ask you first, he [Biden] said not on one fundamental economic issue has John McCain differed with or challenged George Bush. Can you name one economic issue where McCain has been different than the President?
Sen. Kyl: I don't choose to and here's why: the fundamental difference between John McCain and Barack Obama, forget President Bush...
"I choose not to run!" Anyway, you guys still have 9 days to give a final answer, plenty of time...