Monday, January 18, 2010


Kevin Drum:

The striking thing to me, though, is how fast the left has turned on [Obama]. Conservatives gave Bush five or six years before they really turned on him, and even then they revolted more against the Republican establishment than against Bush himself. But the left? It took about ten months.

Republicans didn't really turn on Bush until he started being box-office poison -- in fact, Republicans turned on Bush only because he became box-office poison, no matter what they tell you now. If the House and Senate had stayed in Republican hands, or if a Republican (yes, even the so-called RINO John McCain) had won the presidency in 2008, there'd be a full-throated campaign right now to declare Bush an unappreciated giant among presidents.

And, in fact, they started to turn on Bush after the 2006 midterms only so that they could say that their ideas hadn't failed at the polls. A man they had seen as the embodiment of conservatism when he was winning became a big-spending betrayer of the ideology when he ceased to be popular and started dragging the party down with him.

So, yes, Paul Waldman is partly right when he says this:

If Obama had spent the last couple of years criticizing conservative economic policies and saying they failed because of their inherent conservative nature, it would be much harder for Republicans to continue arguing that some tax breaks for the wealthy are all we need to turn around the economy.

But I'm not sure this cause-and-effect relationship is as simple as Waldman believes:

Because Obama didn't do that, Republicans are now forced to spend virtually no time defending the fact that the years 2001-2008 provided a near-perfect test of their economic ideas, and those ideas failed miserably.

It's not just because Obama failed to use ideological rhetoric, though if he had done so, things would be very different now. It's also because Republicans successfully advanced they preposterous argument that they somehow aren't the party responsible for the mess, because they now criticize the very Republicans they used to champion, for spending tendencies that never used to bother them before. They've even devised a Good Housekeeping seal so you can tell the reformed, responsible Republicans from the bad old Bush-like ones: it's a teabag.

No one should believe this ridiculous PR campaign, but so much time and energy and money has gone into its rollout that people are falling for it. If knocking Bush off his former pedestal is what it took to save the GOP, they were willing to do it, to save their own asses. And it seems to be working.

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