Thanks to the quagmire in Iraq and second-term Bushie bumbling, Democrats retook Congress in 2006 and enlarged their majorities in 2008. Despite a unified country after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the most Republican federal government since Hoover was president, Bush’s legacy was nation-building, budget-busting deficits, bigger spending than Bill Clinton, bailing out the Wall Street banks, and Katrina.
The Iraq war, with its missing weapons of mass destruction, destroyed a Republican advantage on foreign policy that existed since Richard Nixon trounced George McGovern. The financial meltdown at the end of the Bush presidency was the final nail in the coffin for GOP credibility on the economy gained during Ronald Reagan’s boom years.
By the time it was over, the party of Reagan looked like the party of Jimmy Carter.
Obama’s tendency to blame Bush is an un-presidential evasion of responsibility. But when he claims his predecessor blew a budget surplus and put two wars plus an expensive Medicare expansion on a credit card, he is telling the truth.
Thus by 2008 the country was ready to turn to a former community organizer and freshman senator described by National Journal as the most liberal member of that chamber. Four years later, after an unpopular health care law, a stimulus program that failed to stimulate, and a fiscal policy that made the country’s debt problem even worse, Obama was re-elected.
Why? Because more voters still blamed Bush rather than Obama. If the tea party is to blame for anything, it is not distancing the party from Bush enough. Jamie Radtke, the Virginia activist beaten by George Allen in 2012, correctly observed that the movement “would not exist today if the Republicans had not failed under the Bush years.”
When trying to determine what ails the GOP, Bush-Rove Republicans should look in the mirror.
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow him on Twitter.