- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 1, 2009

President Obama is degrading the Oval Office. In recent months, his administration has engaged in puerile, partisan attacks on his predecessor, former President George W. Bush. Nearly every problem in America - the economy, health care, financial regulatory reform, Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo - is being blamed on Mr. Bush.

For example, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel recently hinted on CNN that Mr. Obama’s indecision regarding sending more troops to Afghanistan was caused by his predecessor’s inept policies. “It’s clear that basically we had a war for eight years that was going on, that’s adrift,” Mr. Emanuel said. “That we’re beginning at scratch, and just from the starting point, after eight years.”

The same perverse logic applies to the protracted recession. “I don’t mind cleaning up the mess that some other folks made,” Mr. Obama said at a fundraiser last week. “That’s what I signed up to do. But while I’m there mopping the floor, I don’t want somebody standing there saying, ‘You’re not mopping fast enough.’ ”

Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said the administration has inherited “the worst fiscal situation in American history.” In other words, don’t blame Mr. Obama for not reversing the economic downturn.

Bush-bashing is being used as a smokescreen to distract the public from Mr. Obama’s ineffective policies. It serves as a mask to cover up the administration’s central problem: incompetence.

Mr. Obama certainly made the opposite assertions during the 2008 campaign. The then-candidate said he was inheriting a spiraling economy and two wars but nonetheless could promise to bring a new era of “hope,” “change” and “economic renewal.” Moreover, his seminal pledge was to transcend America’s bitter political divisions and become a “post-partisan” president who would unify all voters.

By contrast, Mr. Obama is the most radical president in U.S. history, whose socialist policies are fracturing the country along ideological, racial and class lines. He is a dogmatic divider. The angry town-hall meetings, the “tea party” protests and his dwindling poll numbers are not because of Mr. Bush. Rather, they are the direct result of Mr. Obama’s big-government liberalism.

The president predicted that the $787 billion fiscal stimulus would save or create more than 3 million jobs. He stressed that it would keep the unemployment rate from surpassing 8 percent; it is now at 9.8 percent - and climbing. His failed stimulus package is his responsibility, not that of his predecessor.

In 2009 alone, Mr. Obama has racked up a $1.4 trillion budget deficit - the largest in U.S. history. Over the next decade, the national debt will triple, burying America under a mountain of red ink. The results will be devastating: soaring interest rates, skyrocketing inflation, a plummeting dollar and eventual bankruptcy. He has contributed to this impending economic meltdown.

Mr. Obama vowed that “soft power” and international multilateralism would sweep away global resentment against the United States. He would be able to persuade our NATO allies to contribute more troops and resources to the Afghanistan campaign. Instead, it is obvious he has no idea how to defeat the growing Taliban insurgency - and our allies will not contribute any more or fewer resources than they did under Mr. Bush.

Mr. Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world was supposed to change the dynamic in Arab nations, enticing them to accept American policies. Yet his obsession with direct talks with Iran’s mullahs is only giving them more time to acquire a nuclear bomb. All the while, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rages on and nuclear-armed Pakistan grows increasingly unstable.

Elsewhere, we are no longer feared or respected. Russia is resurgent. China is buying up our soaring national debt. Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela is exporting its Bolivarian socialist revolution across the Western Hemisphere. America is in retreat as Mr. Obama smiles for the cameras.

Mr. Bush is destined to become the Herbert Hoover of our time. For decades after his presidency, liberal Democrats blamed Hoover for nearly every ill that befell America - the stock market collapse, the Great Depression, high unemployment, widespread poverty, the Dust Bowl, even the rise of fascism in Europe. Led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, New Deal liberals used the economic crisis of the 1930s to discredit the conservative Republican era of the Roaring ‘20s.

In fact, Hoover was not a laissez-faire free-marketer; his administration dramatically raised taxes, increased public spending and imposed severe protectionist trade measures. Roosevelt’s New Deal was erected upon Hoover’s liberal-statist foundations. This, however, did not stop leftists from demonizing Hoover. Propaganda trumped reality.

In a similar vein, Mr. Bush was not the radical right winger of the mainstream media’s fevered imagination. He was a Great Society Republican who supported federalizing education, open borders, free trade, amnesty for illegal immigrants, massive foreign aid to Africa, runaway government spending, huge budget deficits and a Medicare prescription-drug benefit - the greatest expansion of the welfare state since the late 1960s. Even in prosecuting the war on terror, Mr. Bush followed the John F. Kennedy-Lyndon B. Johnson liberal internationalist tradition of “nation-building” in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Like Roosevelt, Mr. Obama is trying to expand upon his predecessor’s policies while simultaneously bashing him, almost turning him into a caricature.

Behold our whiner in chief: He prefers to set up a straw man antagonist for the nation’s ills rather than take responsibility for his own dismal record.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington-based think tank.

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