August 18th, 2008
03:19 PM ET
12 years ago

Obama jabs McCain for 'rich' definition


[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Obama took aim at McCain for jokingly defining ‘rich’ as earning $5 million or more per year."]

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico (CNN) – Barack Obama took a jab Monday at a weekend comment by John McCain that the minimum income for “rich” making $5 million a year.

At an economic roundtable discussion of the economy Monday in Albuquerque, Obama accused McCain of “peddling” President Bush’s economic policies from the past eight years, including tax breaks for the wealthy.

“Which I guess if you’re making $3 million a year, you're middle class,” said Obama, admitting that maybe McCain was joking.

But that's reflected in his policies,” Obama continued, “where for people making more than $2.5 million, he's giving folks a $500,000 tax break. And so this is a fundamental difference in this election.”

Both candidates appeared, separately, at Pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church on Saturday for his “civil forum” on faith, values and leadership. Asked to define “rich,” McCain responded that it should be defined by a home, a good job, education and “the ability to hand our children a safer and more prosperous world…”

“So I think if you’re just talking about income, how about five million?” he later added. “I’m sure that comment will be distorted, but the point is that we want to keep people’s taxes low and increase revenues.”

Asked the same question earlier in the night, Obama joked that it was book sales of 25 million referring to Warren’s bestselling books. He then declined to give an exact number saying that it depends where one lives but that $250,000 a year means “you are doing well.”

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responded in an email saying that Obama is “shamelessly distorting” McCain’s comment.

"Remember when Barack Obama said he was ‘tired of distortion, name-calling, and sound bite solutions to complicated problems?’ Neither do we," wrote Bounds.

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (172 Responses)
  1. Gilbert Omido

    Rich Warren and Sen. McCain need to confess their sin about the so called cone of silence.
    What do they think a non-believer about to accept Christ is thinking about Christianity right now?
    Shame on those in McCain's entourage who sat in the pews grinning and clapping devilishly knowing fully their candidate was cheating.

    August 18, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  2. lil

    Tucker, that is what mccain said and Tucker mccain cheated on those
    debates. He wasnt in a cone of silence he was in a car on his way to
    the church. watching on tv or listening to the radio.

    Some people knew he had cheated all alone. And he still didnt answer the question that was ask. He just talked about being a pow.

    August 18, 2008 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  3. Barbara

    There goes McWarrmonger talking OIL/Georgia – it's blood for oil isn't it?

    August 18, 2008 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |

    Moderate Democratic, New York if you really believe that Mcain came across more articulate than Obama, that's probabaly as far as your intelligence goes and Obama is to deep and rich for your poor intelligence. Obama takes the time and articulates his answers, taking you through his thought process and giving you other angles of a situation, thus granting you a clearer picture.

    August 18, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  5. Proud to be American

    McCain left his first wife for the brand new rich one "Cindy" heck she spends 750,000 in a week (remember) so he is so out of touch with the average American.... he is a war monger that just want to fight!

    August 18, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  6. Pat

    Since McCain showed up a half hour or more late to the Forum, I'd say there's a pretty good chance he spent that time watching Obama's segment on either TV or his private car's TV. Wouldn't you if you were next at the Forum.

    And now given McCain's attempt at humour on the Minimum Income question it looks even more sceptical. Obama made a joke about that question and then McCain tries to add his humour to the same question! Seems to me he must have heard Obama's answers on the questions.

    August 18, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |

    Above my pay grade? People who love Obama,THIS is president? He look like 9th grade .If no HRC – go for McCain

    August 18, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  8. isaty

    I believe that McCain violated the 'cone of silence'. Proof, Senator McCain asked a question ahead in reference to who he will not nominate to the Supreme Court, and Rev Warren replied that the question will come up later. How did McCain knew that was a question among the questions? You should all play that video, and see the proof how McCain knew the questions that were meant for the forum especially in reference to the supreme court judges.

    August 18, 2008 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. Jennifer

    Is it against the law to be rich these days? You all need to go live in Communist China if you think that way. This is AMERICA. We are free to make as much as we can!!! Good night..this country scares me.

    August 18, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  10. EDW


    McCain new what questions were coming and jumped ahead regarding the court justices. And his cross in the dirt story was lifted from a Russian prisoner.

    August 18, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  11. JA Cook

    McCain was joking when he referred to the 5 million BUT he refused to define "rich" preferring to say that we should all simply be more prosperous.

    Duh! Why didn't I think of being more prosperous myself?

    August 18, 2008 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  12. Cathy

    I can't stand McCain on issues of importancs and an Obama supporter 110% but McCain was only joking when he said that during the forum. Obama should have left that statement alone...

    August 18, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  13. Don Colony14Author, Peruibe, Brasil

    Does anyone think Obama really intends for taxes to be raised only on people who've sold 25 million books? Of course not, everyone knew that was meant in jest. McCain was obviously also joking, so for Obama to use McCain's comment against him means either that Obama is just another shameless politician intentionally misstating his opponent's position, or he is incredibly stupid and thought McCain was serious. I would prefer believing the former, but Obama's performance with Warren lends some support to the latter.

    At least Warren asked some reasonably tough questions – which is more than one can say for the media. Warren made the media look terrible (not that that is difficult to do).

    For some tough questions the media should (but won't) ask, check out the list at

    August 18, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  14. KC

    It seems that most of the people that are commenting on this subject need to go back to High School and learn how this country was made. Oh that's right since we should give everyone tax breaks, how is America going to fund education? Just keep dumbing down.

    August 18, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  15. Turnabout is Fair Play

    I used to be a Democrat August 18th, 2008 5:10 pm ET

    Barack Obama is the biggest idiot to run for President since John Kerry. I can't believe how far the Democratic Party has fallen…

    This your own distorted hatred of Obama. What is your reason for the vile hate? Be objective instead of subjective if that is possible for a knuckle dragging, heavy brow ridge trogladyte as yourself or STFU ballzchin.

    August 18, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  16. mel

    I wish I could make 250,000 a year because i would be better off.
    But I don't I am struggling on below average income. McCain,or any
    other rich ,don't know the meaning of not having the money to support
    yourself no longer a family.$20.00 an hour is hard to live on because
    it is tax and after taxes you don't have very much. Mccain, family
    do not have to live pay check to pay check.

    August 18, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. Steve/Houston,TX for Obama

    All I can say is wow!!! How can McCain improve America if he is out of touch with the majority of America? $250,000 is doing quite well compared to someone getting by on $25,000. It is just how this country is ran. You work, you pay taxes. It is only for the sake of equality that the people that make more are taxed more. The fact is, we have to have taxes.

    OBAMA '08

    August 18, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  18. Pam

    McCain's campaign is complaining of "shameless distortion"?? Guess they would know it when they see it.

    August 18, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Napoleon Complex

    Hey Clinton/McCain: Here is what Obama also said:

    "Now in terms of the administration or how I would approach the presidency, I don’t think I’d restrict myself to three people. There are people like Sam Nunn, a Democrat, or Dick Lugar, a Republican, who I’d listen to on foreign policy. On domestic policy, I’ve got friends ranging from Ted Kennedy to Tom Colburn, who don’t necessarily agree on a lot of things, but who both have a sincere desire to see this country improve."

    Do you idiot PUMAs really want to give McCain two or three appointments to the Supreme Court? What do you think that would do for gender equity in this county? I guess you're all just Republicans after all.

    August 18, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. Ben

    Obama is really an idiot to bring this up ! McCain was JOKING, you can see the extract on this website. Sorry Barack, but McCain beat you last Saturday, so get over it.

    August 18, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. Ellie in Aurora, CO

    OK – I admit this comment is shallow, but did anyone else have a hard time getting past the McCain botox treatment? It worked everywhere on his face, except his right forehead, which still had wrinkles. Yikes!

    August 18, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  22. Puzzle2

    Senator Obama. If people haven't become disenchanted with your lack of experience by now, just keep pontificating and making cute remarks. They will. There's more than enough time for you to confuse your base and definitively lose the undecided vote. Keeping your 'celebrity' in tact will also erode your following. Whoever is running your campaign must be using Senator McCain's playbook. I think he/she is confusing the X's and the O's. And, choosing Al Gore for a running mate would be the best of the best thing that ever happened for the McCain camp.

    The real disappointment in 2008 is that we will never get to meaningful, substantive discussion, answers, and strategies on domestic and international issues with you as a candidate because of your razor thin logic, your "feel good/sound good" politics, and the wisdom you so sorely lack for the office which requires a leader as opposed to a celebrity.

    August 18, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  23. concern

    For all you people out there who think that we can fix the USA by brorrowing endless money from CHINA shouldn't have to pay tax!

    August 18, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  24. biffington, biff

    Please remember...

    There are only two kinds of Republicans....




    August 18, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  25. Ex-Republican for Obama

    Obama is not asking them to be taxed more, he advocates 'fair taxation'.

    As it stands, these rich people do not pay proportianately the same amount in taxes as the rest of america. We should all pay the same amount of taxes per dollar earned, and that is not what is happening.

    Taxes need to be raised on the rich so that they will finally be doing their fair share for this country. It truely is getting to the point of the revolutionary days of 'taxation with out representation". All of the benefits are being bestowed upon these rich people, while the peasants, earning less then $250k a year are forced to pay more taxes to give MORE goods to the already enchanted royals.

    Same per dollar, and atleast Obama's plan moves toward it, while McCain's plan further burdens all those that earn under $250k

    August 18, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
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