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Saturday, August 16, 2003

Spinning Failure

Dwight Meredith over on PLA has a very interesting post up about the contrary spin points being employed by the two parties regarding the recession. Democrats are saying that the recession started in March 2001 (which is correct) and Bush is saying that it started in January 2001.

As Dwight points out, however, it would be smarter for them to switch their talking points because:

The argument the Democrats should make is that Mr. Bush failed to fix the problem. The more time Mr. Bush had to fix the problem, the more traction the Democrats will gain.

The Democratic line should be, “Mr. Bush wasted four full years and $2 trillion and the American people still can’t get jobs.”

The more time Mr. Bush had to turn the economy around, the better that argument will sound.

The converse is true for Mr. Bush. The later the recession started, the less time his policies have had to work. If the economy remains sluggish, Mr. Bush will argue that his prescription is right, but the medicine has not yet had time to work. That argument works better if it is made closer to the time the symptoms appeared.

This is correct. And, it plays into what I think is a strangely stupid tactic on Rove's part --- Junior's defensive and whiny tone and a pattern of unwillingness to take responsibility for anything that has happened since he assumed the office. (It's always possible that this is one of those unfortunate things that Rove can't control --- Bush himself may be believing his own hype about having been chosen by God or maybe he is just congenitally incapable of admitting fault.)

Bush and his boys are beating their breasts about all the things that have happened on his watch that he just couldn't help. And, he's right as far as it goes. The downturn in the economy and 9/11 were beyond the control of any politician. But, the man has been in office now for almost 3 years. At this point, the questions must go way beyond the problems (and surpluses) he inherited and unanticipated crises. It's about what he did about them.

This constant refrain of "it isn't my fault" is very unattractive coming from a supposed manly-man, "responsiblity era", straight shooter like Bush particularly one who has had a GOP congress (in practice if not in fact for the first year and a half) and has not issued even one veto. It's not like he had any institutional roadblocks preventing him from doing everything he possibly could.

The 2nd term is a referendum on the incumbent. He has almost nothing positive to show for his tenure. His reactions to economic conditions and 9/11 have been unsuccessful. He has failed to turn around the economy and he has failed to make America safer. In fact, it can be argued that 3 years after the advent of the recession and 2 years after 9/11 we are substantially worse off than we were before.

The Democrats need to emphasise Junior's response to problems (or lack thereof) rather than trying to defend the Clinton era by implying that the recession wouldn't have happened had Bill (or Al) been in office. Clinton's legacy will take care of itself. What they need to point out is that every president is confronted with unanticipated crises and that Bush has mishandled every single one that came his way, from the lack of stimulus in excessive tax cuts for the rich to botched homeland security to post war planning in Afghanistan and Iraq.

He's got a record and it isn't very impressive. It's a mistake to let him get away with framing the argument as if he inherited a bunch of huge problems that nobody could have dealt with, when the truth is that it's his job to deal with whatever problems present themselves.

Real Men don't whine and they don't put on cute costumes and pretend that they did something when they didn't. They solve the problem and move on to the next one.