Alex Massie

McCain’s in the house, but which one?

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I suppose that, technically, it has nothing to do with whether a candidate for the Presidency is worthy of the office, but, really, don't you think John McCain should at least know how many houses he owns?

From the Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.

“I think - I’ll have my staff get to you,” McCain told us in Las Cruces, N.M. “It’s condominiums where - I’ll have them get to you.”

The correct answer is at least four, located in Arizona, California and Virginia, according to his staff. Newsweek estimated this summer that the couple owns at least seven properties….

McCain’s comments came four days after he initially told Pastor Rick Warren during a faith forum on Sunday his threshold for considering someone rich is $5 million — a careless comment he quickly corrected.

Interesting moment for Team Obama: Bill Clinton's campaign would have crucified George HW Bush if he had made comments such as this. Will Obama do likewise? Then again, the media was happy to frame Poppy Bush as an out of touch patrician. There's no such caricature of McCain who remains, rightly or not, the doughty straight-talking hero regardless of anything he says. I mean, is suggesting you're not rich until you have five million in the bank "careless" or "revealing"? Or both?

Dan Drezner, from whom this item is culled, says he will believe more in media bias if this story fails to escape from the lefty blogosphere.

UPDATE: James Joyner has more links and wonders what the big deal is. But the point, as I understand it, is not that McCain is rich or that he has lots of houses (heck, Obama ain't applying to the poorhouse either and, in any case, it's good fortune to own plenty of property not "elitist") but that McCain wasn't able to say how many properties he owns.

Now perhaps this is, as Matt Yglesias says, partly because it's actually tricky to count them all up. But it's the casual imprecision that can only be enjoyed by the super-rich. It's not the wealth that is the issue, but how it is borne. McCain is some way short of advising voters to eat cake, but there's the faintest whiff of that in the air. And this, allied to the you're rich when you earn $5m error, at least allows Obama to show that he can throw an elbow too.

Whether it will really work is another matter. I'm not sure it's strong enough beer to penetrate the wise-cracking war hero persona that armour plates McCain's candidacy and, frankly, protects him from tough questioning. And in any case, the GOP pinned the elitist tag on Obama first.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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