In 1984, an Associated Press writer covering the Democratic primaries wrote that "In a presidential contest dominated by concerns over the economy, inflation, and unemployment, the Democratic candidates have been loath to acknowledge the extent to which Carter administration policies contributed to those problems. Democrats have also controlled Congress for most of the past three decades, which made it relatively easy to enact the policies Carter pursued."
Of course, that AP report really never happened. The establishment press never razzed Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, and the other 1984 Democratic presidential candidates about the ruinous Carter-Era inflation, 20%-plus interest rates, and high unemployment against which the Reagan administration was making significant progress in the early 1980s. But on Tuesday morning, Beth Fouhy at the Associated Press felt it necessary to wonder why this year's GOP primary candidates are rarely mentioning George W. Bush, even though the economy under Barack Obama is making relatively scant progress towards a genuine recovery and makes a much more appropriate target for criticism. Here was her comparable paragraph, plus the two which followed:
In a presidential contest dominated by concerns over the weak economy, government spending and the $15 trillion federal debt, the Republican candidates have been loath to acknowledge the extent to which Bush administration policies contributed to those problems. Republicans also controlled Congress for six of the eight years Bush was in the White House, clearing the way for many of his policies to be enacted.
There is no question that Obama's policies, including the federal stimulus program and the auto industry bailout, have swollen the deficit and deepened the debt. And three years into his presidency, Obama often falls back on complaints about the bad situation he inherited when seeking to defend his own economic performance.
But while Obama may be overly eager to blame the Bush years for the nation's problems, GOP presidential contenders seem just as eager to pretend those years never happened.
Nobody's pretending the Bush years didn't happen. In fact, as far as the economy is concerned, once it recovered from the Clinton-Era Internet bubble and the 9/11 attacks, it wasn't all that bad. The same can't be said of George W. Bush's final two years, during which Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. The deficits during the two budget years ending September 30, 2008 and 2009 over which the 2007 and 2008 sessions of Congress had primary legislative responsibility, ended with official deficits of $454 billion and $1.417 trillion, respectively, after 2007's relatively tolerable deficit of $163 billion. Even after appropriately reducing the 2009 deficit by about $700 billion for the estimated effect of the stimulus plan and other initiatives President Obama pushed into that year, that's perhaps $1 trillion in deficits for which Bush and the Pelosi-Reid Congress shared responsibility.
So if you're a GOP candidate and have a choice of picking on someone, you pick on the Democrats who were involved. Welcome to politics, Ms. Fouhy. Zheesh.
Oh, and George W. Bush wasn't responsible for the 15-year Democrat-driven debacles and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the extent of whose underhanded dealings were kept from everyone except a few insiders at those companies and perhaps a few other prominent Democrats (i.e., nobody but a relative few had any idea how bad things were).
For another phooey on Fouhy translation exercise, let's first go to most of here report's third paragraph:
Bush, a two-term president who left office just three years ago, has gone all but unmentioned. While the candidates routinely lionize Ronald Reagan and blame President Barack Obama for the nation's economic woes, none has been eager to embrace the Bush legacy of gaping budget deficits, two wars and record low approval ratings - or blame him for the country's troubles either.
It's funny how no one at the AP or anyone else in 1984 wrote something like the following: "Carter, who left office just three years ago, has gone all but unmentioned. While the candidates routinely lionize FDR, JFK, and LBJ and blame President Ronald Reagan for the early 1980s recession, none has been eager to embrace the Carter legacy of high inflation, high interest rates, increased unemployment, failed attempts to appease the Soviet Union, and low approval ratings - or blame him for the country's lingering troubles either."
C'mon, Beth. These people are trying to forge their own conservative identity, as were Mondale, Hart, and other Democrats in 1984, and the Obama administration's performance thus far makes it a far more inviting target than Ronald Reagan ever was during the end of his first term. Give it a rest.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.