Obama has his McCain moment on economy

It’s not every day you can get a president of the United States to eat his words in a matter of a few hours.

On Friday, Republicans and Mitt Romney managed to do just that, after they pounced on President Obama’s remark during a late morning news conference that “the private sector is doing fine.”

The gaffe was a trenchant example of Obama being out of touch with reality, and a moment of presidential callousness toward 23 million unemployed Americans, the GOP argued.

"For the President of the United States to stand up and say the private sector is doing fine is going to go down in history,” Romney said in a speech in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “It's an extraordinary miscalculation and misunderstanding by a President who is out of touch, and we're going to take back this country and get America working again.”

Then in the afternoon, speaking to reporters in the Oval Office after a meeting with the president of the Philippines, Obama walked back his remarks.

“It is absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine, that's the reason I had the press conference,” he said. “There are too many people out of work, the housing market is still weak, and too many homes are under water, and that's precisely why I asked Congress to start taking some steps that would make a difference.”

Obama clarified that he was referring to the fact that private sector is creating jobs at a faster rate than the state local and federal governments, which have laid off 700,000 people over the past three years. (the unemployment rate is still 8.2 percent)

Still, Obama’s initial remark was reminiscent of John McCain’s “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” at the apogee of the 2008 financial crisis. Republicans were only to happy to repay Team Obama for the pounding they gave McCain at that time.