Could Romney Run Against Bush?


Jonah Goldberg believes so:

Obama wants to cast Romney as a return to Bush. It’s nearly the only argument he knows how to make. Romney, in my opinion, should turn the tables on Obama and make Obama defend his continuation of Bush’s spending binge (If Romney wanted to be really cruel, he could make the case Obama has continued many of Bush’s counter-terror policies as well). Romney has the luxury of being the outsider. He can criticize both parties’ records over the last decade. The tea parties won’t complain. Neither will independents. And, so long as Romney is respectful in how he frames his criticisms of GOP spending under Bush, most rank and file Republicans and movement conservatives will probably applaud as well.

What staggers me about this is the cynicism. Maybe I shouldn't be staggered any more, but the truth is that Bush ramped up spending much more than Obama has – and he did so without presiding over the the worst recession since the 1930s, the one time when spending more is good policy. What Goldberg is now doing is deliberately ignoring the context for the spending of the last three years – wiping the recession from the record – and hoping to make this campaign an abstract and ideological one, between spending and cutting, equating both Bush and Obama as spenders. It really is Etch-A-Sketch. Obama, however, is much more fiscally responsible than Bush in a far far tougher climate. Even if you concede the harshest interpretation of Obama's responsibility for spending, he still ends up more fiscally conservative than Dick "deficits don't matter" Cheney.

This is particularly galling for those like me and Bartlett who stood up against the Bush spending in the first term only to be ostracized and pummeled by the GOP for "disloyalty." And it says something that intellectual honesty on the right has now been entirely hijacked by tribal partisanship. Obama wanted a Grand Bargain, was prepared to negotiate, has kept non-stimulus spending under control, and shepherded the US economy through the recession more successfully than most other Western countries. The GOP gave him nothing. For this, he is now going to be compared to Bush's fiscal recklessness.

When it doesn't make you despair, it makes you want to throw up.