The grand narrative for Republicans in this presidential election seems to be that things were bad when Barack Obama took office but that he hasn’t done enough to improve them. Initially they tried to suggest he made things worse, but that was just stupid so they’ve moved on to the claim that he hasn’t improved things quickly enough.
This argument works only if you stick George W. Bush in a closet and deny there is any relationship between the policies of his government and what we are likely to see in a Romney administration. On the first point, they certainly act like George doesn’t exist, and, on the second, Romney has done everything he can to avoid specifics regarding his own platform, so it’s hard to know where he and the previous Republican administration would agree or disagree. But does anyone doubt there would be a strong family resemblance involving things like tax cuts for the wealthy and reduced regulations, the very things that got us in trouble in the first place?
The Republicans have picked up the famous Reagan question from the 1980 campaign, “are you better off now than you were four years ago?”
As Jake Tapper at ABC News points out, the initial reaction from the Obama campaign was to avoid the question all together. Or, when they did answered it, they sometimes said that things were not better, but it wasn’t their fault.
Thankfully, they soon realized that both answers were the wrong answer.
Here is how Tapper describes the evolution to the new and, I believe, correct answer:
But on CNN’s “Early Start” this morning, anchor John Berman elicited a different response from Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse.
“Brad you’ve been shaking your head, as you’ve been sitting off camera, because we’ve been playing all the sound from the last 24 hours of Democrats being asked ‘are you better off today than you were four years ago?’” Berman noted. “So, I’ll give you the chance to ask the question: Are we better off than we were four years ago?”
“Absolutely,” Woodhouse said.
On the Today Show, NBC’s Natalie Morales asked Obama campaign deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter: “Let me begin by starting with that central question on a lot of people’s minds, and that is are we better off today than we were four years ago when President Obama was elected?
“Absolutely,” Cutter said. “Let me just walk you through what life was like four years ago.
Cutter noted that “in the six months before the president was elected, we lost 3.5 million jobs,” and added that wages had been declining, the auto industry was on the brink of failure, and so on. “Let’s take a look where we are today… we’ve created 4.5 million private sector jobs” — note the omission of public sector jobs, which have a net loss of more than 600,000 — “the auto industry today is the number one auto industry in the world.”
Acknowledging the weak recovery, to a degree, Cutter said “it might not be as fast as people hoped. The president agrees with that. He knows we need to do more.”
|Don’t you remember? I was
the 43rd President. I was.
If Mitt Romney’s campaign didn’t think George W. Bush was a problem, they’d be wheeling him out at every opportunity. It’s a simple idea: A Republican president with Republican policies created the worst economic disaster the country has seen since the Great Depression. President Obama first stabilized the economy and has been growing it and reversing job loses ever since, albeit not fast enough. But why would you want to go back to the same failed policies that almost destroyed the economy in the first place?
Is the country better off now than it was four years ago? Yes. Yes it is.
I certainly hope the Romney campaign keeps asking that question. I suspect the Obama campaign sees a great opportunity to bludgeon them with it.
(Cross-posted at Lippmann’s Ghost.)