World News

McCain's Gramm steps down after "whiners' comment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Phil Gramm, an economic adviser to Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, resigned from his campaign on Friday in the fallout over his comment that the United States had become a “nation of whiners.”

Gramm, a former Texas senator, said in a statement issued by the McCain campaign that Democratic attacks on him had become a distraction to Arizona Sen. McCain, who will face Democrat Barack Obama in the November 4 election.

“To end this distraction and get on with the real debate, I hereby step down as co-chair of the McCain campaign and join the growing number of rank-and-file McCain supporters,” Gramm said.

Gramm, who had advised McCain on economic issues, stirred controversy earlier this month by saying in a newspaper interview that Americans were in a “mental recession” over the economy and had become a “nation of whiners.”

Democrats seized on the comment to try to portray McCain as out of touch on the economy. McCain quickly disavowed the comments and said Gramm did not speak for him.

Gramm later said he was referring to the country’s political leaders, not Americans in general, but the damage had already been done. “It is clear that Democrats want to attack me rather than debate Sen. McCain on important economic issues facing the country,” Gramm said.