Bush vs. Obama, shifting the blame

It has been over a year since Barack Obama became president, yet he continues in campaign mode blaming his predecessor for the state of the economy and the deficit in a decidedly unpresidential fashion.

Obama stands apart from his predecessors who similarly took office during sour economic times in his unwillingness to take responsibility for the state of the economy and in his incessant blaming of his immediate predecessor.

Americans look to their presidents to take charge and not blame their predecessors for the current state of affairs even when a shred of truth in their gripes exists. Obama’s effort to shift 100 percent of the blame for the current deficit and economic crisis on George W. Bush stands in stark contrast with Bush’s approach to Bill Clinton after taking office in 2001.

According to Bush’s presidential papers, he never once placed blame for the lackluster economy squarely on Bill Clinton’s shoulders or accused his predecessor by name even when supporters pinned blame for the economic downturn on Clinton’s policies.

The closest George W. Bush came to blaming Clinton came in August 2002 when he told an audience at a Mississippi high school the nation was teetering into recession when he entered office in Jan. 2001.

Bush, unlike Obama, personally bent over backwards to avoid sounding shrill toward Clinton and the Democrats after taking over the Oval Office, according to former Bush speechwriter Pete Wehner.

“Bush, himself, if you look through the full body of his work was very careful in his criticisms of Democrats compared to other presidents,” Wehner said. “He was quite gentle relatively speaking compared to other presidents, so I think Bush was pretty good on the spectrum in terms of engaging in the blame game, and Obama’s probably the worst we’ve seen in our lifetime.”

The former president, Wehner said, was known to edit terse remarks against Democrats from his speeches when speechwriters wanted him to be tougher against his opponents.

“When there would be radio addresses and there were instances related to Democrats, he would take out … the reference to Democrats … and make it more generic—those on Capitol Hill and so forth,” Wehner said.

Those who knew Bush while in office say he consciously tried to avoid finger pointing.

The current president’s desire to blame Bush also sets him apart from recent Democratic presidents such as Jimmy Carter who specifically refused to point the finger at his Republican predecessors.

During an April 15, 1977, press conference, reporters asked Carter how his economic policies would differ from those of Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, and the president responded quite differently from Obama. Instead, Carter told reporters he “would like to answer the question without criticizing the previous administrations, Mr. Ford or Nixon.”

Wehner said Obama’s refusal to follow Carter’s example stands as a tacit admission the current president is over his head.

“They’re really not up to the task of governing, so they are in a search for excuses,” he said.

Obama’s incessant blaming of Bush might play well with the Democratic base, which overwhelmingly blames the former president for the current administration’s woes. But it has begun to have a negative impact with the independent voters who elected him.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen said independents voted for Obama in 2008 because they wanted to fire Bush and bring about change, and these voters are not seeing the changes they voted for when they swept Obama into office.

Obama’s policies have caused the same wind that brought Democrats into power in 2006 and 2008 to blow in the opposite direction.

The immediate effects of this trend were seen last fall in Virginia and New Jersey, and last month in Massachusetts when 73 percent of independent voters voted for Scott Brown because they opposed Obama’s health care plan.

Rasmussen said independent voters want results, not the president blaming Bush for shortcomings happening on his watch.

“If I were advising President Obama today, I would ask him to make a decision about what is the bigger threat ̶ energizing his base or his inability to reach unaffiliated voters,” Rasmussen said. “Blaming Bush is definitely a way to rally his base.”

It will become increasingly difficult for Obama to blame Bush as he gets further into his term because he will only increase independent voters’ angst with him and his policies because voters will increasingly blame him and his spending policies for the state of the economy.

According to Rasmussen, only 11 percent of the electorate support the sort of Keynesian economics advocated by Obama and the Democrats that call for increasing government spending in a recession, and that bodes poorly for his being able to blame Bush much longer.

John Rossomando is an experienced journalist whose work has been featured in numerous publications such as CNSNews.com, Newsmax and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award in 2008 for his reporting.

  • logic

    This column misses the much bigger point that always gets lost in the petty lib vs. conservative/democrat vs. republican nonsense; that gov’t and its status-quo policies are fundamentally the problem, no matter who is at the helm. The foreign policies never fundamentally change, the spending remains out of control, the government continues to grow and infringe. People waste so much time fostering this ridiculous D vs. R battle, when the parties are not meaningfully different and we all continue to suffer the consequences of their big gov’t policies.

    • joltinjoe

      There’s a lot of truth to what you say. However, the democrats are far worse than the republicans in promoting the higher deficits, lousy foreign policy, and freedom stealing policies. Obama’s policies are even far worse than either Roosevelt, Carter, or Clinton in doing so. Any critisim of the Bush policies is justified because they moved to the left while he was in office. The current group of policies are making things worse by going further left still. It is leftism that is the problem. Now you know.

    • Komemierdas

      You are spot on with your analysis of the workings of politics in our country. Politicians on both sides consistantly hammer away at hot button issues with the intent is to distract from and obscure the realities. This piece by Mr. Rossomando is flawed from the very start when he states Mr. Obama takes every opportunity to blame the Bush administration while Mr. Bush never blamed the Clinton administration, i.e. a lackluster economy. For starters, if someone hands you a budget surplus, it’s hard to blame a poor economy on that when Bush inherited a much more robust economy than the one he handed Obama. Didn’t the Bush adminstration blame for 9/11 on Clinton? I recall them stating Clinton had a chance to take Bin Ladin out but failed to do so. Apparently, Bush corrected the mistake and 9/11 didn’t happen…or did I miss something.

  • rocnjohnny

    This article is BS. When Bush came into office he had money in the bank. When Obama came into office he not only lost that money in the bank he had to deal with the reason that the bank had been robbed. No sorry I’m not buying your story. Its one sided and tries to lead the reader into a lie. It was not even the same thing. You are comparing apples to oranges. Why not try to just tell the truth “Obama stands apart from his predecessors who similarly took office during sour economic times in his unwillingness to take responsibility for the state of the economy and in his incessant blaming of his immediate predecessor.” This is bull! “Americans look to their presidents to take charge and not blame their predecessors for the current state of affairs even when a shred of truth in their gripes exists. A shred of truth in their gripes, can you believe this guy? He needs to look at the history or the USA in the last 40 years and see who has hurt and destroyed the reputation of this country in the whole world. This guy is a real piece of work.

    • libertyatstake

      Clinton’s so-called surplus resulted because he had the good fortune to ride the economic revival initiated by Ronald Reagan, and the benefit of an opposition Congress to keep his worst liberal instincts in check. True, Bush left a large debt after two full terms – far too large for principled conservatives. Crybaby Obama has tripled the Bush debt in less than half a term.


  • rightforlife

    Im so sick of hearing Obama blaming our country’s problems on the previous administration. He was elected (stupidly) on the basis that he could turn around the problems. By merely continuing to complain about the hand he was dealt (which lead to his election by the way), he is just being useless. Obama pleaded for change and a new direction, but he seems to be content with just whining about the past.

  • qofdisks

    It will take far longer than a year to turn the Bush economic disaster around.

    • erick1740

      Exactly the kind of idiotic whining the article is talking about. Bush is not president anymore and this disaster economy is the result of obama’s out of control spending. End of story.

      • barackthevote

        No its not. The state of the economy is due to Bush’s economic policies in which regulations didn’t exist. Obama has every right to bring up Bush when people criticize the economy since Bush is the one who created the mess. Obama is trying to clean it up, but people need to realize that it won’t happen right away.

        • joltinjoe

          It is not Bush’s fault. Even though the ecomomy was in decline at the end of his 8 years, it is not the president’s fault. No one person can be blamed for the trends in the whole economy. A democratic congress pushed through legislation that greatly impaired the economy. 911 had a great effect on the economy. Ugly car designs by General Motors and Chrysler impaired the American Automobile industry while foreign imports had nicer looking cars that ran well. Speculators in real estate harmed the economy to the greatest extent. Yes, this happened while bush was President, but that doen’s make it his fault. If government is to blame, then it is Congress that you are looking for. Now you know.