From NBC's Mark Murray and Lauren Appelbaum
On ABC this morning, Robin Roberts remarked to McCain: "You have admitted that you are not exactly the expert when it comes to the economy and many have said that... "
McCain interjected, "I have not. I have not. Actually, I have not. I said that I am stronger on national security issues because of all the time I spent in the military and others. I am very strong on the economy. I understand it. I have a lot more experience than my opponent."
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While McCain has never said that he wasn't an "expert" on the economy, he has acknowledged that it is a shortcoming -- which was at the heart of Roberts' question ("not exactly the expert").
"The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should," McCain said in December 2007. "I've got Greenspan's book."
And here's what he told the Wall Street Journal's Stephen Moore in 2005: "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated."
This isn't the first time McCain has tried to sidestep his past quotes on the economy. At a GOP presidential debate back in January, the late Tim Russert asked McCain this question: "Sen. McCain, you have said repeatedly, quote, 'I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated.' Is it a problem for your campaign that the economy is now the most important issue, one that by your own acknowledgment you're not well versed on?"
McCain replied at the debate, "Actually, I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well versed in economics. I was there at the Reagan revolution. I was there when we enacted the first -- or just after we enacted the first tax cuts and the restraints on spending."
But appearing on Meet the Press later that week, McCain admitted, "Now I know where you got that quote from. Now I know where you got the quote from... Let me tell you what I was trying to say and what I meant in that soundpiece. I spent 22 years in the military. I spent 20 years in the Senate Armed Services Committee. I've been involved in national security issues all my life... Of course I know more about national security than any other issue. That's been my entire life. Am I, am I smart on economics? Yes."