In a highly unusual move, Democrats are going after Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN) for suggesting that the American economy might be in better shape than the recent S&P downgrade indicates — a key White House talking point.
In an interview with a local TV station criticizing the ratings agency’s decision, Lugar told an interviewer: “The American economy is still strong, that we’re making progress although it’s very slow in terms of job creation, and that we still have a dollar that is the world currency and we are still selling bonds to everybody all over the world despite the S&P downgrade.”
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Shripal Shah said in a statement that Lugar’s quote was “out of touch with the struggles that so many Hoosier are facing right now.”
“His remarks are nothing short of insulting to the Hoosier families who are very worried about what’s happening on Wall Street and don’t feel that the economy is strong,” Shah added.
The DSCC attack puts Democrats in the surprising position of bashing the state of the economy, usually the GOP’s favored talking point as Republicans look to pin weak jobs numbers and other discouraging news on the White House. Just this week, President Obama and Treasury officials waged an aggressive campaign against the S&P’s decision to downgrade US debt based on the claim that America’s financial health is stronger than indicated. In fact, they often used similar language to Lugar.
“Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America,” Obama said in a speech last week. “No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country. For all of the challenges we face, we continue to have the best universities, some of the most productive workers, the most innovative companies, the most adventurous entrepreneurs on Earth.”
Lugar spokesman David Willkie told TPM in a phone interview that Democrats bore the blame for the problems the Senator identified in his statement.
‘Dick Lugar believes the American economy is resilient and will come back from the damage done by Obama and the Democrats,” he said. “He believes that what we need to do is elect a Republican president and majorities in the Congress in 2012.”
Lugar is currently engaged in a heated primary fight against state Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the GOP nomination.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.