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Another Referendum On Bush?

July 19, 2010

Amazing as it may seem, the Republican Party appears to be coalescing around the idea that a full-fledged return to the policies of Bush/Cheney is just what we need right now. NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions on Meet the Press yesterday, appeared to endorse just such an experiment saying, “We need to go back to the exact same agenda that is empowering the free enterprise system rather than diminish it.”

To be fair, Sessions made this statement following an embarrassingly poor attempt at dodging host David Gregory’s question as to just what the GOP would do were they to win a majority in November. But Sessions is not alone. On C-SPAN’s Newsmakers, NRSC chairman John Cornyn went so far as to suggest that we’re in for a reawakening of sorts for George W. Bush.

Look, I think President Bush’s stock has gone up a lot since he left office. People appreciate his resolve and commitment in the face of a national security threat like 9/11. He had his challenges no doubt. We have learned a lot about things we could have done better as Republicans in terms of fiscal responsibility…I think a lot of people are looking back with a little more… with more fondness on President Bush’s administration, and I think history will treat him well.

It seems the GOP chairmen are taking the advice Karl Rove offered in his July 8 Wall Street Journal column.

To maximize their gains, Republicans must go beyond promising to slash Democratic spending and reverse the Obama agenda (as important as these are). They also need to offer a competing agenda for increasing jobs and prosperity, and outline the concrete steps they will take to get back on the track for economic growth.

[…]
A GOP growth agenda would keep intact the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts… Republicans must make a compelling case that allowing the tax cuts to expire will result in history’s largest tax increase — killing jobs, punishing hard work and enterprise, damaging growth, wounding small business, and postponing the moment government finally restrains spending.

[…]

A jobs, growth and prosperity agenda is a natural complement to austerity policies. It offers hope as well as sacrifice. And growing the economy makes reducing deficits more manageable.

Yep. That’s Karl Rove suggesting that the current GOP “jobs and prosperity” agenda should be the same as under Bush/Cheney. Now how did that work out, again?

For their part, Democrats are more than happy to allow 2010 to be another referendum on Bush.  Talking Points Memo reports

“We could not have made the case any clearer than Pete Sessions did that Republicans only want to go back to the failed policies of President Bush,” said DCCC spokesman Ryan Rudominer.

Why wouldn’t the Democrats love this turn of events? After all, a recent Time magazine poll shows that a staggering 71% still blame Bush for the failed economy and 53% still prefer President Obama to Bush. You can almost hear the DNC saying “Bring it on!”

So why in the world would the Republicans go down this path? It’s all about the economy. The GOP has diligently spent the last 19 months obstructing the kind of substantive stimulus that could truly aid the economy and opposing real financial reform to help prevent this catastrophe from recurring. Their callous and calculated plan has been to do everything within their power to keep the economy in the toilet for their own electoral benefit.  They haven’t even been terribly clever in disguising this.  But surely this could never work?

The GOP is gambling that enough voters will answer on a visceral level when asked if they were better off economically under Bush than they are at present.  The unfortunate truth is that we do not have a fully informed electorate, and when people are hurting, as millions of Americans are, they tend to blame the guy in charge. In this case, that guy is the Democrats. So while the vast majority (71%!) still blame Bush for getting us into this mess, there is a fair chance that just enough will blame Obama and the Dems for not getting us out of it quickly enough to hand at least the House back to the Republicans.

The question remains, what would they do then? My bet is on more of the same: try to keep the economy in the toilet until the 2012 Presidential election.

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