July 10th, 2008
01:50 PM ET
10 years ago

Gramm: 'What we need is more leadership and less whining'

Gramm told CNN he did not mean to suggest Americans are 'whiners.'

Gramm told CNN he did not mean to suggest Americans are 'whiners.'

(CNN) - Top McCain adviser Phil Gramm tells CNN that his most controversial comment about the economy in a recent interview has been misinterpreted.

The former Texas senator, who advises presumptive Republican nominee John McCain on economic matters, also said he had not been speaking for the campaign when he spoke to a Washington Times reporter. “I didn’t claim to be representing anyone except myself,” he said. Gramm called CNN from his cell phone before boarding a flight Thursday, to clarify his remarks.

Gramm said he that he was trying to say the nation’s leaders, not its people, were “whiners.”

“The whiners are the leaders, hell, the American people are victims, but it didn’t quite come out that way in the story,” Gramm said. These national and congressional leaders “blame speculators and oil companies for our problems, instead of presenting concrete programs for using energy more efficiently, or leaders who don’t think we can compete with Mexico.

“What we need is more leadership and less whining,” he added.

But he stood by his assessment that the country was in a “mental recession.”

“I said we are in a mental recession. We keep getting the steady drum beat of bad news…it’s become a mental recession,” said Gramm. “We don’t have measured negative growth. That’s a fact, that’s not a commentary.”

Asked whether he understood beforehand the kind of political impact his statements might have, he said this outraged reactions his remarks had drawn were just part of the “game” - anytime anyone says something, said Gramm, it can be “taken out of context.”

Filed under: John McCain • Phil Gramm
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Ms. RDS

    How can US workers compete with Mexico when their workers are getting paid 1/4 of what they would in the US because of weak labor standards. And US companies are exploiting the "free trade" argument to secure more profits by lowering wages. Free trade alright we trade with countries which "frees" up an American job...

    July 10, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  2. Voter

    Oh, dear.....

    July 10, 2008 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Alex


    July 10, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  4. Johnny Mac is bad cheese gone worse

    Gramm needs more brains and less lip.

    July 10, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  5. Abby

    I believe what you said was "a Nation of Whiners" not a leadership. You can backtrack now but the news cycle aint what it used to be when you were a young man.
    so too little too late.
    Obama oh eight.
    (it rhymed!) lol

    July 10, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  6. Lee-- Dallas, TX

    Well I hope McDoNothin is able to cover everyone with this particular mental illness. I hear its contageous and most Americans are showing symptoms of this 'mental' recession.

    McCain you have the wrong guy speaking for you… I guess we poor regular Americans are just a 'nation of whiners' as stated by this surrogate.

    It must be a mental thing, paying $4+ for gas, $4+ for milk, this increasing job loss, stagnant wages, rising insurance & healthcare costs, the list goes on... but it is just a mental thing, right?

    And, who's elitist again?

    July 10, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  7. smile!!!!

    he said it but doesn´t mean it.......from the mc chee playbook

    these repugnants are one and all the same.....pityful and sickening

    rove´s refusal to testify will, for once and for all, sink the repugnants in november

    July 10, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  8. Anonymous


    July 10, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  9. Tommy Hussein in St. Louis

    Well, while it may be technically true that we are not in a recession, you have to keep in mind that this "mental recession" stuff is coming from somebody who doesn't have to spend a second of his life worrying about money. This "mental recession" is just as bad, and the economy is headed in that general direction anyway, with prices of gasoline and everything else increasing and the dollar becoming so worthless people will not even want to use it as toilet paper. I would like to find out what each candidate intends to do to strengthen the dollar.

    July 10, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  10. Ken in NC

    Former Senator Phil Gramm was quoted as saying, “I said we are in a mental recession. We keep getting the steady drum beat of bad news…it’s become a mental recession,” said Gramm.

    I have always thought that “Mental” was that which is or was perceived while physical what the actual loss there of. Well if it is rumored that jobs will be lost it is depressing but when the pink, or any other color, slips go out then it becomes a recession. I do not mentally feel the pinch of the cost of my gas or the increased cost of food while at the same time suffering the loss of a real job. What I feel is real and it hurts so don’t tell me it is mental.

    Right now it is a parade with only drums as instruments.

    July 10, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  11. Tommy Lee of SC

    McBush, surrounded by the likes of Charlie Black and Phil Gramm would be one of the most corrupt administrations in history.

    Sounds to me like it is the McBush camp that is whinning about things. Americans are actually suffering the handy works of Bush the past 8 years. Bush 1 left us in a recession and Bush 2 is trying to leave us in a depression.

    Phil Gramm can go to Haites!

    July 10, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  12. Mark

    I'm sure that Phil and his wife Wendy are tired of those less fortunate that are living paycheck to paycheck, on the cusp of poverty, expressing their concerns that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Phil and his wife run with a crowd that could care less about the country being for all of the people, not just the wealthiest 1 or 2 percent. This country may be a great nation, but the greatest nations make an effort to pay attention to all of the people and not just the corporations that lobby the government.

    Want the whining to stop? Start work for all of the people!!! If the press is reporting accurate statistics on foreclosures, unemployment, etc., then Phil should stop whining. We are all tired of the gray haired old white men running the country......

    July 10, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |



    July 10, 2008 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  14. carlo

    Okay and Obama's patriotism is questioned? What kind of hogwash is this? First, John McCain wants to drill not to help Americans with gas prices (which he knows it won't) but because of the "psychological" effect it would have on the market. Then this Enron clown tells us that our pain is "whining?" Tell that to the people having their homes foreclosed or for people like me and millions of others who are spending $250.00 a month on gas and can't afford to get a basket of groceries. He has a heck of a lot of nerve.

    July 10, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  15. Wm

    Everytime you look at Phil Gramm just remember that his wife was on the board at Enron. Everytime you look at him just remember his excuse for not going to Viet Nam.

    July 10, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. kingsley



    July 10, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  17. Brenda

    He is absolutely right! I, for one, am sick and tired of some our government officials always asking another to apologize when they say something negative, which is often the truth. To the whiners, I say... Grow up, stop blaming others for your problems, do your stinkin' job, and grow a back bone!

    July 10, 2008 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  18. DM, Let talk about the truth!!

    Wow, so what actually happening to the Auto Worker, Airline Pilot, School Teacher my god!! loosing jobs is all mental!!!!

    Oh my God!!! Help us John McCain and Phil Gramm When you have so much money and a private jet I guess the cost of fuel really don't bother them....

    July 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  19. Major Michael Lorton, Virginia

    Does Mr. Graham have any ideas of where we are going to find that "leadership" he claims is the solution. Past and present leaders are the problem.............not the solution.

    July 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  20. F. Preyear

    He is an idiot. We are in a recession and that is a fact not just mental. Everyone should be whining.

    July 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  21. ryand.

    Sure buddy. Sure.

    Obama 08'

    July 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  22. hojo

    Gramm was NOT referring to America's leaders when he stated that Americans who named the economy as the number one issue were winers and that we were ONLY in a mental recession. His true feelings are on record and he can try to say that were misinterpreted but it won't work. This is the same guy that McCain stated that he would rely on for economic advise since he (McCain) said he doesn't know very much about the economy.

    July 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  23. John Ret. Air Force

    He meant it. McMillionaire has said it it different words before. It is in our heads-we bit off more than we can chew in home purchase-he thinks the economy is going well, etc. It is difficult for Multimilionaires and lobbyists to crasp the situation or maybe the really DON"T CARE. The rich get richer-then no problem.

    July 10, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  24. Amazing

    Wow, backpedaling at its best!

    July 10, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. Unempressed

    Is he whining about the "whiners"???

    The GOP is rich and out of touch with REAL hardships people face. How can they lead what they don't understand or experience? oh yea... the last 8 yrs.

    – Mortgage crises
    – gas/food prices
    – predatory lending
    – can't qualify let alone afford healthcare
    – jobs being shipped overseas
    – trickle down "economics" – yet the rich put their $ in offshore accounts
    – removal of VA hospital benefits
    – social security and unbalanced buget (borrow from China??)

    I must be imagining all this...

    July 10, 2008 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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