Anyone who has even bothered to read my columns over the last decade-plus knows I was never a huge fan of George W. Bush. I have always believed that the 43rd president was a decent man who tried to do the right thing but often failed, either because of bad advice or flawed ideology - or both. That said, Barack Obama has carried Bush bashing to a level that should astound all but the most hardened and cynical political observer.
This was so obvious that by the time Obama first took office in 2009, a tongue-in-cheek joke was already flying around the Internet about him strolling into the Oval Office his first day on the job and finding a note in the desk drawer from Bush. The message read, “Good luck, Mr. President. For the time being, feel free to blame me for the state of everything.”
Three months later, in a more obscure place, Obama finds another note from his predecessor, again expressing the sentiment that #44 could probably continue to blame #43 for all his troubles. Along about Christmas of that first year, Obama stumbles across a memo from Bush that simply reads, “The economy is yours. The deficit is yours. The war is yours. You’re on your own. Good luck.”
Now, well into his second term, Obama has become a caricature of himself. In fact, if Saturday Night Live were to do a spoof on the Blame Bush phenomenon, it would look a lot like Obama’s actual statements.
Five months after taking office, in June 2009, Obama blamed Bush for the financial crisis. “We inherited a financial crisis unlike any that we’ve seen in our time,” he said at the time.
In September of that first year, Obama stated, “I took office at a time when many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and distrust. Part of this was due to misperceptions and misinformation about my country. Part of this is due to opposition to specific policies, and a belief that on certain critical issues, America has acted unilaterally, without regard for the interests of others.”
On March 1, 2010, he offered this: “When I first walked through the door, the deficit stood at $1.3 trillion, with projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. If we had taken office during ordinary times, we would have started bringing down these deficits immediately.”
On May 27, 2010, he said this about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: “In this instance, the oil industry’s cozy and sometimes corrupt relationship with government regulators meant little or no regulation at all.”
A year later, he beat this old drum again: “We inherited the worst recession since the Great Depression, a banking system on the verge of meltdown. We had lost 4 million jobs by the time I was sworn in and would then lose another 4 million in a few months right after I was sworn in before our economic policies had a chance to take root.”
March 29, 2011: “I inherited a big debt.”
August 8, 2011: “Look, we do have a serious problem in terms of debt and deficit, and much of it I inherited when I showed up.”
February 23, 2012: “We’ve made sure to do everything we can to dig ourselves out of this incredible hole I inherited.”
March 4, 2012: “When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters.”
March 14, 2012: “When I came into office, there had been drift in the Afghanistan strategy, in part because we had spent a lot of time focusing on Iraq instead.”
The latest actual example of the current president trying to lay blame on the former was on display during his recent appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. After telling Leno’s audience that there is no NSA program of spying on Americans, the president then proceeded to blame George W. Bush again.
“A lot of these programs were put in place before I came in,” he said.
Actually, my favorite “Blame Bush” joke circulated during last year’s presidential election - four full years after Obama first used these lame excuses to deflect from his own performance. The story went that the president planned to send a bill to his Democrat buddies in Congress, proposing that the San Andreas Fault be renamed “Bush’s Fault.”
Anyone know the current status of that legislation?
Doug describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. Readers are encouraged to email Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.