- - Wednesday, October 31, 2012


If President Obama should win re-election on Nov. 6, you can blame his predecessor, George W. Bush — but not for the reasons Mr. Obama would have us believe.

During the campaign of 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama blamed the Great Recession on Mr. Bush’s economic policies. Four years later, Mr. Obama is still blaming Mr. Bush — this time for the failure of his own policies to fix what he calls “the worst economy since the Great Depression.” He says he needs four more years, in effect moving the goal posts by suggesting that he didn’t realize just how bad the economy really was when he took office.

That’s despite having said in an interview with “Today” host Matt Lauer on Feb. 1, 2009, less than two weeks after taking office: “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”

Put another way, Mr. Obama basically conceded that he would become a latter-day Jimmy Carter, banished to the obscurity he so richly deserves.

Unlike Mr. Obama, Ronald Reagan didn’t whine incessantly about the economic mess he inherited from Mr. Carter, for which the term “stagflation” was coined. With a trifecta of unemployment, inflation and interest rates all in double digits upon entering office in 1981, Reagan inherited a Carteresque “malaise” arguably worse than the economic mess that confronted Mr. Obama in 2009.

But Reagan didn’t point fingers; instead, he rolled up his sleeves, went to work and brought the economy roaring back. Two years after the 1981-82 recession, the Reagan economy enjoyed muscular gross domestic product rates as high as 8.5 percent (as compared with the current 1.7 percent on an annualized basis under Mr. Obama), ensuring the Gipper’s landslide re-election victory in 1984.

If polling trends showing a strong and steady movement in his favor are correct, Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney could well become another Reagan next week in ousting a failed president — in essence denying Jimmy Carter a third term. That would prove, as with New Coke, that even an avalanche of advertising can’t sell a bad product more than once.

In the final few days of the campaign, Mr. Romney’s closing arguments to voters for firing Mr. Obama should follow the lead of those of then-Sen. Al Gore, running for vice president in September 1992. Mr. Gore started out telling his supporters to imagine how they would feel if they woke up on a cold November morning, opened their newspapers and read “Four More Years” (of another Bush, that is; namely, George H.W. Bush). Then he went into this riff:

“Unemployment around the country has gone up.
The number of jobs has gone down.
The trade deficit has gone up.
Personal income has gone down.
The budget deficit has gone up.
The supereconomist (sic) has gone down.
Poverty has gone up.
The number of jobs has gone down.
Gas prices have gone up.
Jobs down.
Fear up. Hope down.
Everything that ought to be down is up.
Everything that should be up is down.
They’ve got it upside down, and we’re going to turn it right-side up.”

The 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign wildly exaggerated how bad the economy was then (“the worst economy in the last 50 years”), a contention that was demonstrably false (and certainly more attributable to what we are facing now under Mr. Obama than then), but which went largely unchallenged by the elder Bush.

As they say, like father, like son. George W. Bush has remained inexplicably silent for four years while his economic record has been besmirched by Democrats — some of it deservedly so, but much of it unfairly. The most obvious example: Gas prices under Mr. Bush were half what they are now. Yet when the unemployment rate has been over 8 percent for 43 of the past 44 months, it’s also easy to forget that for most of the Bush years, the jobless rate was under 6 percent and that for 24 consecutive months, from December 2005 to November 2007, it was under 5 percent. Why hasn’t Mr. Bush pushed back, using these and other inconvenient truths?

Even if Mr. Bush seemingly doesn’t care about his presidential legacy, he should have realized, as liberals have reminded us in another context, that silence equals assent, and that the rest of the Republican Party has suffered some needless tarnishing of its brand from his unwillingness to fight back.

Flash forward to the current campaign. Although fewer and fewer voters are still accepting the Obama narrative of how bad the economy he inherited actually was, so he shouldn’t be held to his “one-term proposition,” there remains a core of voters who still buy into the notion that it’s Mr. Bush’s fault and that four more years of Obamanomics are just the tonic to cure an ailing economy, the past four years notwithstanding. If these voters are sufficient to enable Mr. Obama to remain in office, we really will have something to blame on George W. Bush.

Peter Parisi is an editor at The Washington Times.

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