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Aug 21, 2008


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I agree that McCain bungled the answer, but it begs the question- who is rich?

Ed Cone

There is not a fixed, numerical definition of "rich." Personal definitions are a fascinating topic, on which I'm happy to dilate, but although the word is used a lot in discussions of tax policy, it's not that useful in terms of specifics, at least until the tax code starts using "rich" as a bracket.

Dave Ribar


"Who is rich?" The short response is "anyone who makes more than I do." :)

There is no accepted definition. However, we could look at tables of the 2006 (latest figures) household income distribution up to $250K that are put together by the Census Bureau.

Of the estimated 116,000 households in the U.S., the Census Bureau estimated that 2,200 or just under 2 percent earned more than $250K. The cut-off for the top 5 percent was $166K. The $250K definition would seem to be a reasonable one (98 percent of the households would probably agree :) ).


I initially thought it was a stupid question at Saddleback. Then I remembered the old saw that there are no stupid questions, only stupid answers. $5 million was a stupid answer.


"In popular usage, 'begging the question' is often used to mean that a statement invites another obvious question. This usage is disparaged."


Ed Cone

Dave, are you missing some zeros from those household numbers? 116K should be 116 million, right?

I'd say someone is rich who can afford to live a comfortable lifestyle without any earned income. "Comfortable" is another malleable term, but I mean quite a bit more than food on the table and a modest home in retirement. $5-10 million in assets would probably do the trick for most people, although calling that rich would make a hedge-fund manager snicker.

Someone who makes good money but spends it all each year, accumulating no assets, is rich as long as the job lasts.

There are many gradations of wealthiness, none with clear definitions (e.g., comfortable, well-to-do, superrich). They all look rich to people who are not rich, and middle-class people in this country look rich to much of the planet, and so on.

Big L

Ed's laughable attempts at trying to undermine McCain at every turn are quite pathetic.

McCain has ran a fantastic campaign, regardless of what anyone on TV says. He's allowed Hussein to overexpose himself and make constant mistakes, and every time he makes a point it scores. He scored big time with the celebrity ad, he scored at the debate, and he's going to keep scoring until the end.

Hussein's whining is proof that McCain is winning here. Hussein's loyalty should absolutely be questioned. He has undenyable ties to Muslims, to anti-American bigots, and to known terrorists. McCain has a record of service and his Senate work. Which one is superior to electibility?

Crybaby liberals can trot out the polls and numbers they want and try to deny the truth that Hussein has fallen behind. McCain's strategy has been ran flawlessly, and he'll keep rolling until November.

63-35. That'll be what McCain wins by, whether Ed and his pals like it or not.


Big L, have you had your house checked for Radon recently? Carbon monoxide? The warning signs are there...

Robert P.

Is this the cost of milk question for McCain?

Dave Ribar


Sorry about that. The original numbers were in thousands, and I chopped another three digits off of that (one more reason for including links to sources so that our own mistakes can be uncovered :) ).

Also, your definition refers to wealth rather than income. $250K in wealth is a lot different from $250K in annual income. The figures that I linked to (and mis-typed) were annual income figures.

Ed Cone

DR, exactly right on the wealth vs income distinction. I don't think someone with $250K in assets is rich, but someone with assets that generate $250K a year might well be.

By my personal definition, being rich involves a degree of independence. Someone with a good income might lose the job tomorrow, and with it the lush lifestyle, but a truly rich person doesn't have such constraints.

Again, the definition is hard to pin down. Someone making a ton of money probably feels rich, and by many definitions is rich.


Ed, your own answers don't seem very different than what McCain said, particularly that last comment.

Dave Dobson


Sam says:

If you are rich and want to live an over the top lifestyle instead of getting a $10 haircut and donating the other $390 to the poor that you claim to care so much about, that's fine. Just don't preach about how concerned you are about the poor. It makes you look foolish.

McCain says he cares for the poor a lot.

McCain can't remember how many houses he has, but there are seven, and they're worth $13 million.


Ed Cone

Sam, McCain said $5 million in annual income is rich. I said $5 million in assets, which would yield an income of perhaps $200K, might be a threshold.

And remember: "rich" doesn't appear on tax forms. I'm just making conversation, McCain was discussing policy.


McCain fires back:

"Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses?" asked McCain spokesman Brian Rogers. "Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people 'cling' to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who's in touch with regular Americans?"

Dave, still trying to save John Edwards? I don't remember McCain campaigning on "Two Americas" and claiming poverty is the central focus of his campaign. Read better.


McCain can't remember how many houses he has, but there are seven, and they're worth $13 million.

John Kerry owns more than seven, and his home in Georgetown is worth more than 6 million, yet no one asked him about them when he was running for president.

Dave Ribar


Still trying to prove that you are incapable of doing anything but throwing dirt?

McCain stepped in the sh*t with his comments. Now his lackeys are trying to throw sh*t as fast as they can. SSDD from the "straight talk express." Maybe he has another Britney commercial that he can pull out of his *ss.

Mountain Shout's

I'm with Sam on this one. Why in the world would someone who's toughest bullet on a resume was "community organizing" ala Alinsky want to try to paint his opponent as soft, selfish, etc. which is the purpose of calling someone rich, ie elitist? He's now wide open to Rezko, (which I would like to see someone with better journalist talents than myself, hint, *cough* Ed Cone *cough* look into). It's been said enough, but Barry's lived a cream puff life. Just cop to it, man. And that goes for McCain, too. I get sick every time a politico says, I feel your pain. No, you don't. That's why you had the free time and disposable income to run for office. Admit it, and move on. Personally, I want someone who seperated themselves from the pack their entire life to be President. I think Barack has done that (though not in an admirable way), as has McCain. I apologize for the rant Ed.

Britt Whitmire

How many days did Obama testify in Rezko's trial? Did his name even appear in any court documents?

How anyone tethered to Frank Keating even has the balls to bring up the corruption of Rezko is beyond me, but that's what McCain has: BALLS.


"McCain stepped in the sh*t with his comments."

For telling the truth, that he couldn't recall the number of houses he owned, he stepped in shit?

Please explain how that contradicts "straight talk"? If he lied, you might have a point.

Britt, Obama purchased his very expensive house in a shady deal with Rezko unrelated to Rezko's felon status. Obama made a big mistake when he opened up this can of worms because it will surely backfire or at best, invoke a tie. McCain's error was one of recollection. Obama has more problems with the actual facts. I don't see how he wins. Obama has been goading McCain to go negative so that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that he and other Democrats can trot around like they do every cycle (they never lose on the issues, they just get slimed by mean Republicans) with the same worn out and false theme. Along the way, Obama has only hurt his own status and severely weakens his "politics of change" theme.

The idea that McCain owning six houses is some big campaign issue is baffling. It's simply a fact that has nothing to do with anything. Everyone already knows McCain is married to a very wealthy woman. So was John Kerry. How Democrats can use this to their advantage is "beyond my pay grade".

Meanwhile, Obama has already insulted a large number of "ordinary Americans" with his guns, God, and abortion comments. All he did was give McCain an opening to bring this back up without being called foul for doing so.

A bad decision by Obama.

Ed Cone

You're missing (or perhaps trying to deflect) the line of attack, Sam.

It's not "McCain is rich," or "McCain had a memory hiccup," it's "McCain is heedless and out of touch."

Tie in the rich wife (who didn't release all of her tax returns) and so many houses that he can't remember them all, the association with Phil "Quit whining, poor people" Gramm, his confessed lack of expertise on the economy, and you've got an issue with some legs.

That's not to say it will be successful or not, just to call it what it is. It won't be negated by "Obama has a nice house and went on a nice vacation and dealt with some shady characters in Chicago."

The reporting has just begun, and Leno and Letterman haven't even warmed up yet.

Mountain Shout

I disagree Ed. John's campaign has never been about change, or running from outside the Washington powers that be, though the 2000 "Maverick" campaign was. Everyone knew going in that he was a rich SOB.

Obama is coming from a position of "Change we can believe in" which denotes he is somehow different from the politicians that have come before him. The revelation that McCain is wealthy is a small blip on the radar compared with the realization by millions of Democrats with buyers remorse that Barack is the same kind of hack we've always known, Rezko, Wright, Ayers, failed Socialist policies (cloaked with groovy sounding names no less). The bitter guns and religion quip does far more damage than making sure you don't get caught quoting the wrong number of houses because some are in trusts, condominiums etc.

Britt Whitmire

We continue to dance around this in an attempt to clean up for poor ole Mac. They have tried to paste Obama with being an "elitist" and being "out of touch" with the common man. The common man knows how many houses he own PERIOD! That is out of touch no matter how much you want the boys in Sturgis to check out your wife's t*ts.

The McCain campaign later assured us the senator knows the answer to the question which brings up the subject we can never discuss. Namely, Mac's propensity to be easily confused, mix up facts, and forget things.

Some days you feed it, some days you eat it. The McCain campaign ate it today. Obama may wait another day to name his running mate just so they cn have a little more fun with this.

Britt Whitmire

Oh, and I'm twittering now, so there's that: twitter.com/brittwhitmire

Ed Cone

MS, you say you disagree, but you seem to have completely ignored the gist of my comment, so I'm not sure what you are disagreeing with.

The strategy is not to say McCain is rich (I'm not sure most people knew quite how rich), but to portray him as heedless and out of touch.

It may or may not work, but we might as well identify it for what it is.

By the way, thanks for reminding me that I need to write a column about the tortured usages of "socialism" in contemporary political conversation.

Mountain Shout

I see where you're going Ed. Will somebody please tell me how somebody who graduated from an Ivy, who married an Ivy, who's father was a communist politician, who lives in a mansion can call ANYBODY else "out of touch"? Like you said, doesn't mean he won't be successful, and Mac is guilty as well. Evidently mud is fair game from here out, but that's a game Obama can't win. He's different, remember?

I'm glad I can be an inspiration for a column, however derisive. In this case, was my labeling of O's policies (specifically healthcare, for clarification) as socialism inaccurate? Do tell.

Dave Dobson

Still waiting for McCain to give 390 400ths of his wealth to charity, so he can speak authoritatively about poor folks. Lessee, that would be, what, 6.8 houses? He can live in the other 0.2 of a house - looks like he might have some rooms to sublet.


"Obama has been goading McCain to go negative"

Right... he was asking for it by parading around in that short skirt in the wrong part of town. Totally Obama's fault.

Fred Gregory

Oh gooody.. Cone is counting on the late night clowns to carry water for BHO, like the DNC(MS)NBC does night after night. As if Letterman hasn't from day one. So what else is new,Ed. What did Kay Hagan have for lunch today.? Man, come on, please keep us informed.

Dobson ..How many houses does BO's half brother own ?
It is reported he lives on a dollar a day.. not from Bro'.

Shout out for Mountain Shout..You are refreshing.

Ed.. puleeze..Tortured uses of " socialism"..sheesh !!!Yeah, spit out some hackneyed tripe about Joe McCarthy etc. New and revised... "The last refuge of scoundrels is to whine that someone has questioned their patriotism ". Same league..minor.

So Witlessmire . You not intersted in what is in the Ayers papers? Naw . That may expose BHO's chuminess and camraderie with a unrepentent communist bomber.


If there is any justice, McCain's failure to remember how many houses he owns will be the "I voted for it before I voted against it" of this election. It should be the touchstone which serves as shorthand for all valid criticisms of the man. It should sink his campaign.

This isn't "who is the Prime Minister of Whogivesaflipistan?" This is "how many houses do you own?"

You can tell how bad this is by how hard Sam is spinning. I was on the debate team with Sam. He did his best debating when his back was against the wall and he knew his position was untenable. Guess what, Sam? This one is untenable.

I know how many houses I own. None. The bank owns this one. If I don't pay up every month, they'll take it and kick me out. And I make great money. Too many Americans have found out this year that they don't really own their own home. They lost their home.

I know a few people with two houses. They are generally fairly well off. Might even say they are rich. Certainly, to a person who just lost their only house, a guy with two seems pretty damn rich.

I don't think I've ever met anyone with seven houses. I know I've never met anyone with so many houses they can't remember how many they have.

I'd put McCain's head on the Monopoly Man's body, and have him prancing around the Monopoly board with "Lovey" and his butler, asking "Smithers, Lovey, do we own Park Place? Indiana Avenue? It's just so HARD to keep track of them all, don't you know? Yes yes yes."

As the son of two public school teachers who still don't own their homes outright, I can tell you that I identify a hell of a lot more with the son of a single mother, raised by his salesman grandfather and his postal clerk grandmother, who earned scholarships to good colleges and never made much money till he sold a book that he wrote by himself. That guy is a whole lot more like me than is the pampered son of a pampered son who married a rich heiress because his first wife just wasn't pretty anymore.

Ian McDowell

I don't care how rich a politician is or how he defines the term, but when someone can't remember how many houses he owns, I find myself half-wanting to see flies crawling over his milky-eyed head in the basket under the guillotine. And I say this as someone who generally likes McCain (certainly more than the kind of douchebag that "Big L" pretends to be likes the man whom Corsi's pals at The Political Cesspool called "no friend to white native-born Americans," which is another clue that Biggie is a hamfisted liberal prankster).

Frank Graham is Dead

John McCain doesn't own any of the houses, thank you very much.

What's rich is listening to rich people bitch about who is rich.

Obama does own a house.

cara michele

The one question I have, and this is not about the campaign or even politics at all, is why does anyone NEED seven houses? Unless six of them are rentals? I mean, in a country full of homeless veterans...

Frank Graham is Still Dead

I'm a dumb ass sometimes, but that still doesn't change the fact that
Obama does own a house.

America is not a socialist state

Cara: Because freedom means the ability to freely do what you want with your money and your time.

Some have gumption to accumulate wealth. Others, like Cindy McCain or Cones from Greensboro are born into wealth.

Others work hard to pay the bills or spend their free time alleviating the suffering of others.

Ged Maheux

Man, this is getting good. Can you say "field day"?


Yep. He owns a house he paid for with earnings off of a damn good book that he wrote himself.

His wife did not buy it for him. Nor did he forget he owned it.

You want to take this out of the rich/poor argument? You think that would be better for you?


JOhn McCain is so freaking senile he can't remember where his houses are.

Fred Gregory

How many slums did BHO
help his crooked Chicago cronies build ?


Ah yes, the "I know you are but what am I" tactic.

Hint. Your candidate is old and so rich he can't keep track of it. Rich off his young wife's money. You know, the wife he got after his first wife was in a car crash. Yeah. That one.

What a straight shooter.

Ian McDowell

I take the turtle-faced white guys pounding their flabby mantits in phony outrage over Obama's alleged ties to Rezko about as seriously as I take Jerome "No-Neck" Corsi and his fellow loons at WorldNetDaily when they claim that McCain owes his political success to his father-in-law's cronies in the Arizona Mafia.

Brad Krantz

Thank you all who sneeringly use the terms "Barry" or "Hussein" in identifying Obama as original thinkers who get their "facts" from the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Boortz', and Corsis of the world. I have other talk show suggestions should you need them.

McCain being totally detached from the financial facts of HIS life (the wife handles everything with the checkbook, obviously) explains his flippant answer with Rick Warren on taxes "I don't want to tax rich people" last weekend.

This is being out-of-touch with ordinary Americans. It cannot be spun any other way. It is not negated in any way being being a POW. It shouldn't disqualify McCain, but it just makes him a bit less "qualified" in comparison to Obama, portrayed as a possible Muslim, barely American, giant-Afro wearing 60's radical, affirmative-action Manchurian candidate who will raise ALL taxes on Day One, force your daughter to get an abortion or maybe kill the newborn if given the option. Tell us again John, how proud you are of your campaign, now run by Karl Rove Jr.


You can tell how desperate the Obama campaign and his liberal followers here are by trying to make this an issue. This will have ZERO impact on the polls. Nada. So go ahead and waste your time and credibility trying to make it into something. It's actually fun to watch, and it will be more fun when it backfires against Obama.

And John, my back is far from being against the wall. I think we all should revisit this subject next week just to see how it shows up in the polls and to discuss just how wrong some of you ended up being on this.

In the history of supposed political gaffes, this one doesn't even rate. The overhyping of this is hysterical.


" It shouldn't disqualify McCain, but it just makes him a bit less "qualified" in comparison to Obama, portrayed as a possible Muslim, barely American, giant-Afro wearing 60's radical, affirmative-action Manchurian candidate who will raise ALL taxes on Day One, force your daughter to get an abortion or maybe kill the newborn if given the option. Tell us again John, how proud you are of your campaign, now run by Karl Rove Jr."

Nice try, Brad. Completely dishonest because McCain has done none of those things, but nice try anyway trying to convince people that McCain is running a negative campaign that he is not running. Obama is trying to convince people of the same thing so I can see where you get your strategy from.

When Obama raises something stupid like this house question, that's fair game. When McCain questions Obama's strategy on Iraq or the economy, that's negative campaigning and smear tactics. I get it.

It's laughable but I guess its only going to get even more comical. Democrats have lost 7 out the last 10 presidential elections and are beginning to fear that they may lose another so they are desperate and nothing is out of bounds, including blatant hypocrisy and outright misinformation about what the McCain campaign is actually doing.

Dave Dobson

Seems like less than a year ago Sam told us he was going to keep an open mind, that Obama was an interesting and inspiring candidate, and that he had some real misgivings about McCain. I thought then that that was [cough] crap [cough], but it's been interesting watch it vanish completely from his comments.

And Sam, betting on polls is silly, because they're so random and fraught with chaos, but I'd take your bet here - I think it's going to hurt him. I think you also said "macaca" wouldn't hurt Allen (and I don't think it should have, nearly as much as it did), but I think this is a similar thing. The press needed something new to talk about, and this is memorable branding for McCain, especially right before the convention - it may be as hard to shake as Edwards' haircut.

That has been one of the really disappointing things to me about this campaign. I think McCain would be a bad president, but that has almost nothing to do with how well he knows his real estate portfolio. There are a lot of legitimate criticisms to be leveled against Obama, but McCain and his allies have chosen to denigrate his intellect, popularity, and love of country while basically lying about who Obama's tax plan would help, and casting Obama's desire to get out of Iraq (which McCain now suddenly supports) as cowardice. Not to mention juvenile harping on his middle name and his elementary school. Maybe I'm wishing too hard for Plato's philosopher kings, but this still sucks.

Dave Ribar


This does hurt McCain. The McCain strategy for the past two months has been to define his opponent and make the election about Obama. The gaffe brings the attention back on him, during a period when events (the Russian invasion of Georgia) favored him. So, this is a momentum stopper while the McCain campaign scrambles to undo the damage.

The gaffe resonates in a number of ways. First, it undercuts the "elitist" tag that McCain has tried to place on Obama. Second, it reinforces the perception that McCain is out of touch with the problems in the economy. Third, it reminds people that McCain stands to benefit from the nutty tax policies that he has flip-flopped to support. Fourth, it comes across as a "senior moment," making McCain look feeble rather than sharp and on top of things. Finally, it returns attention to the fact that his wife has not provided tax returns for 2007 or more than a summary for previous years.

The goading comment was just plain silly. McCain had already revived his school nickname of McNasty for the way that he has run the campaign. McCain has now laid the Rezko card on the table, but Obama can raise him with a Keating, a Paxson, and an inside straight of lobbyists.

Ed Cone

MS, you won't be the inspiration for the column, just a reminder. It's been brewing for a while (it will include the term "Islamofascism," for example). The proximate cause of its imminent publication was a conversation I had with a well-to-do gentleman of my acquaintance whom I encountered at the Wyndham. He kindly told me how much he looks forward to my newspaper column and appreciates my writing, then paused, and said, "except for the socialism." I hope the tone of the column is not "derisive," just snappy, and that the content is of some value.

DD, the comparison to "macaca" is interesting, and I do see a parallel. I've always said that what undid Allen was not that people suddenly perceived him as a racist, but that the endless YouTube loop showed the supposedly-sunny Reaganlike pol to be kind of a dick.

That's the danger for McCain -- not that he is shown to be really, really rich, but that he's shown to be something other than his core image -- not a maverick, but an out-of-touch kept man.

And of course that isn't as important as his views on the economy and foreign policy and so on, but we're talking politics, not substance.

cara michele


I'm not a fan of socialism. At all. Nor of Marx. Even slightly. But neither am I a fan of conspicuous consumption. Is McCain free to have seven houses? Absolutely. Does the knowledge that he has seven houses make my un-socialist self a bit uncomfortable? Quite honestly, yes it does. Particularly in light of my high regard for him as a vet and POW, and my awareness of the living conditions of thousands of homeless vets in America. Not that McCain is personally responsible for housing all the homeless vets. Just that the disparity feels... not right somehow -- to me, at least. Is it wrong for me to feel that way? I don't know. But there it is.


"Seems like less than a year ago Sam told us he was going to keep an open mind, that Obama was an interesting and inspiring candidate, and that he had some real misgivings about McCain. I thought then that that was [cough] crap [cough], but it's been interesting watch it vanish completely from his comments."

So your basically saying that in order to prove I still have an "open mind" I MUST support Obama. That sounds like you are the one with the closed mind. I have been very fair to Obama- far more fair to him than you or any other liberal has been to any of the GOP candidates. I still have misgivings about McCain, but that doesn't mean I'm going to sit back and let you all bitch about nonsense and smear him. I got on Hillary's ass when she did it to Obama MUCH STRONGER THAN ANY OF YOU.

The fact is I did keep an open mind, and Obama failed to convince me that there was anything new or substantive behind his rhetoric. I said ALL ALONG that I disagreed with most of Obama's policies but that there could be advantages for conservatives down the road if he was elected. That position hasn't changed, but it also doesn't mean I am going to support Obama.

Typical for you and you ilk to think that the only open mind is one that votes for Obama. That is the real elitism at issue.



"I think you also said "macaca" wouldn't hurt Allen".

Absolutely incorrect. I said that Allen's presidential run was finished after that came out. Go back and check, it's pretty clear. I know Obama is big on putting words in people's mouths that they didn't say. Perhaps you are taking too many cues from him.

The rest of you, I'm telling you this is going nowhere. Ed, commit to revisiting this topic next week. Let's see if there are any specific polling questions on it. Obama may get a bounce because of the convention (which I have gone on record as saying he won't), but he won't get a bounce from this. People don't care because they know both guys are rich.

Ian McDowell

Not everyone who thinks that Sam doesn't know shit from spagnola is a liberal or is going to vote for Obama. And I'm not sure who's dumber, the people who really ARE socialists (I've known a few in my time; one's currently trying to date an old friend's crazy sister)or the ones who clumsily toss the s-word at every policy they don't like.

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