We’ll Get Back to You on That

July 7, 2008 1:03 p.m.

I think we may have come to that moment, that quick turn of events, that encapsulates the fact that there is apparently no limit to the howlers and nonsense that John McCain can throw out and still not generate collective guffaws or even scrutiny from the national political press.

Bear with me on this one because it’s genuinely mind-boggling.

Today John McCain is getting lots of press for his new plan to balance the budget during his first term — what can only be called an extraordinarily ambitious promise. The first pick was from Mike Allen’s piece late last night in The Politico.

Now, the general routine is the face of this kind of candidate announcement is that journalists and economists look at the numbers to see if they add up. In most cases, the exercises generates fairly unsatisfying contradictory opinions, with some experts saying one thing and other experts another.

But here’s the thing. McCain doesn’t have any numbers. None. Not vague numbers of fuzzy math. He just says he’s going to do it. Any other candidate would get laughed off the stage with that kind of nonsense or more likely reporters just wouldn’t agree to give them a write up. But this is all over the place.

The simple truth is that given his foreign policy promises in Iraq and tax cut promises at home there’s really no way McCain could come up with even a fuzzy plan to balance the budget in his first term. So he’s decided instead just promise it. Included in his white paper is just the standard hocum about cutting waste, fraud and abuse in government and making sure we have “reasonable economic growth.”

Remember, this is the guy who’s riding on his reputation for ‘straight talk’. And he’s just promised that he’ll balance the budget in his first term. For any serious reporter covering this campaign that should immediately lead to a request for actual numbers to back up how he’s going to accomplish that.

As I noted last night, one of McCain’s vague assertions was that he “would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit.”

So what are the numbers behind that? We just asked the McCain campaign and the response we got was …

It’s pretty straightforward, as we win, costs will go down with a smaller footprint over time, and those savings will go to deficit reduction. It’s really the logical extension of Senator McCain’s position as articulated in the 2013 speech. Achieving success in Iraq would obviously lead to reduced expenditures on the effort.

This is what’s behind McCain’s promise. I’ll do a lot of things that will get the deficit down. One of them is the the guarantee of victories in Iraq and Afghanistan and obviously that will save a lot of money.

As I said, this is the reductio ad absurdum of the mad pass John McCain gets on everything. He’s pledging to balance the budget in four years and when asked for details he says, ‘We’ll get back to you on that.’

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