Today In Gross Political Hackery

by Zack Beauchamp

Responding to Jonathan Alter's question/provocation (“Tell me again why Barack Obama has been such a bad president?”), Pete Wehner lists a bunch of facts about how bad the economy is. Well, yes, Pete, but is that the President's fault? Obama conspicuously lacks the ability to snap his fingers and make the unemployment rate go down. The much more interesting question is whether Obama could have been doing better. Wehner's answer to this obvious point reveals the depressing thrust of his argument:

Bush_tax_cuts_and_future_debt_(cbpp) What makes this record doubly horrifying is rapid growth is the norm after particularly deep recessions — but under Obama, our recovery has been historically weak. President Obama (and Alter) can blame his predecessor, the Tea Party, the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, events in Europe, ATM machines and even athlete’s foot for his predicament. It doesn’t really matter, as even Obama conceded during the early months of his presidency, when he declared, “One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable.”

So, for Wehner, the question of what actually screwed the economy is besides the point. Because Obama acknowledges that he's held responsible politically, any and all problems may be legitimately blamed on his actions. Substantive questions about what caused any such problems are fundamentally irrelevant, as the metric of whether "Obama has been a such bad President" has nothing to do with actually assessing the consequences of his actions, and everything to do with what charges might stick politically. Thus, in what appears to be an attempt to reductio his own argument, Wehner counts low home values as evidence that Obama has failed (how could anyone think otherwise?) By Wehner's metric, as long it's happening under Obama, it's evidence Obama is a bad president. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.

But substance appears not to matter here, despite Wehner getting that "[Alter] wants to know on a substantive basis why Obama should be judged to have failed so far."  The entire exercise is brazenly, nakedly political. It makes a mockery out of Wehner's claim to give a fair hearing to his opponents' arguments. He ought to be embarrassed.