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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Blame Where It Is Due

One of the most important current conservative political memes is to make George W. Bush a very distant memory, even though he was still Commander in Chief just ten months ago. There are two reasons for this, of course: conservatives want to blame Barack Obama for the policies and conditions he inherited, and they also want to pretend the 43d president’s ideology and policies had nothing to do with what his successors on the Right are promoting today.
Since it it rather difficult to argue on any rational basis that the domestic and international state of the nation was shaped far more by the man who was in the White House for the last eight years than the man who’s barely unpacked, a twist on the “blame card” meme is to suggest that Obama and Democrats are, well, being impolite and cowardly by failiing to suck it up and take responsibility for what they walked into on January 20. A good example is a new column by National Review’s Rich Lowry:

When Obama first burst on the scene, he seemed to respect the other side. That refreshing Obama is long gone. Now, he impugns his immediate predecessor with classless regularity, and attributes the worst of motives – pure partisanship and unrestrained greed – to those who oppose him. Their assigned role is to get the hell out of his way.
The acid test of the White House inevitably exposes a president’s character flaws: Nixon’s corrosive paranoia, Clinton’s self-destructive indiscipline, Bush’s stubborn defensiveness. Obama in the crucible is exhibiting an oddly self-pitying arrogance. It’s unbecoming in anyone, let alone the most powerful man on the planet.

So forget about facts; forget about actual responsibility; forget about justifying a different policy course at home and abroad by explaining why the Bush approach failed so dismally. Obama isn’t a mensch unless he shoulders Bush’s blame, and he must “respect” his opponents by absolving them of responsibility for their own deeds and for the policies of the man they so recently lionized as a world-historical colossus.
There’s little doubt that history will judge the Bush administration as a batch of gambles–from the invasion of Iraq, to the abandonment of ailliances, to the demonization of “enemies” overseas and domestic, to giant regressive tax cuts, to an effort to gut the New Deal legacy, and to a systematic attempt to govern in the most partisan manner possible–that failed. It’s simply wrong to forget all that, even for a moment.

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