Repeating the old party line, Politico goes the extra mile to delegitimize President Obama’s indictment of the Republican Party’s history of fiscal irresponsibility:
President Barack Obama is trying to ride the wave of anti-incumbency by taking on an unpopular politician steeped in the partisan ways of Washington.
It doesn’t matter that George W. Bush left office 16 months ago. [. . . .]
Obama cranked up his indictment of the GOP in Ohio this week, criticizing “the ‘just say no’ crowd” and the Republicans’ “selective memory” of the economy in January 2009.
The message is layered. A shot at Bush (without mentioning his name.) A jab at congressional Republicans (although rarely saying “Republicans.”) A defense of the actions he’s taken so far.
The New Republic hits on why “Bush-blaming” remains relevant, from a causal standpoint: if you break a guy’s legs, you can’t call him a whiner for bowing out of a marathon the very next week. And you can’t act appalled when he points to you as the reason why.
But the relevance of Bush’s record runs deeper still, making the former President “fair game” for at least one additional, vital reason: the Republican Party has given the electorate no cause to think that they’ve learned their lesson. It’s not like we haven’t heard the “small government” argument before. Maintaining the Clinton surplus was a key point of Bush’s campaign — and yet his first domestic priority, once elected, was to broker a hyper-partisan upper-class tax cut that, because it wasn’t offset by coordinate spending cuts, immediately swallowed half the surplus. Bush never even attempted to live up to the organizing principle of his entire campaign. Why should the next guy be any different?
Nor has the GOP made any real apology for its performance in office. This is a matter of basic responsibility. Republicans can either admit that Bush was a failed president and strive to distinguish themselves, thus earning the right to live down his legacy; or they can defend his performance on the merits, and attempt to avoid the blame issue altogether. Instead, they’re asking the American people to “forgive-and-forget,” but without ever actually conceding wrongdoing. Rhetorically brilliant, maybe, but a more dishonest approach to the politics of failure than anything that can be attributed to the Democrats.
Remarkably, it’s probably going to work — as long as we keep treating Bush as the problem.
He’s not. Really, he’s not. He’s just the symptom of the larger problem, that small-government conservatism, while attractive, remains, for whatever reason, impractical. Call it human nature, but no mainline conservative politician has thus far had the will to execute the second, painful step of the “cut taxes/cut spending” plan. Reagan couldn’t. Bush couldn’t. Why should we trust the next guy? We shouldn’t — especially because the GOP still won’t admit that the last guys did anything wrong. Until that happens, Bush will remain relevant to prove that, even if the conservative message sounds appealing, it’s never going to happen.
Or, in his words, fool me once…