Apparently, Mitt Romney and many conservatives haven’t learned their lesson. During CPAC, the former Massachusetts governor devoted a segment of his well-delivered speech to extolling President George W. Bush. He praised Bush for pulling the nation out of recession after 9/11, taking on the teachers’ unions, taking down the Taliban, waging war against jihadists, and keeping America safe. Unfortunately, Romney neglected a pool of contradictory data and the powerful lessons of 2006 and 2008.
If Romney is going to praise Bush for pulling America out of the post 9/11 recession, then, in all fairness, he should give credit to Bush for leading America to its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. If the bubble years of the Bush presidency were a result of W’s fiscal policies, then the great bubble collapse was as well. Being a highly respected businessman, Romney should know better. The temporary prosperity of the Bush administration and a largely Republican congress was built on massive deficit spending, insatiable borrowing from China, artificially low interest rates at the Federal Reserve, significant Dollar devaluation, and tax cuts that were not matched by a commensurate number of spending cuts. Sure, the stock market hit an all-time record high, unemployment was low, and many Americans borrowed and spent their way to luxury, but as we learned beginning in late 2007, it was all a mirage. The economic “boom” had been built on a foundation of sand.
If Romney is going to praise Bush for taking on the teachers’ unions to achieve greater accountability, then he should also praise Bush (and a largely Republican Congress) for increasing the national debt due to a substantial spike in federal education spending. In theory, at least, conservatives have always championed local and state control over education, but under Bush, the Federal Government seized greater authority.
If Romney is going to praise Bush for taking down the Taliban, then he should also praise Bush for the Taliban’s resurgence as the Bush-Cheney administration turned their focus to Iraq. While the Bush administration was successful in dislodging Al-Qaeda and taking down the Taliban government (why didn’t we leave after this success?), years passed, the Taliban regrouped, and America has now lost over 1,000 soldiers and spent over $250 billion and counting in the Afghanistan nation building effort.
If Romney is going to praise Bush for waging war against the Jihadists and calling it what it really is- “a war”- then shouldn’t he also praise President Obama for instituting two, new massive troop surges in Afghanistan, signing off on a record $708 billion military budget, ordering a record number of Drone strikes, and expanding US military presence into Pakistan and Yemen? Also, ironically enough, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and a Republican controlled Congress never declared war according to Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. A vague, open-ended congressional “authorization” (which Democrats also supported) was enacted instead.
If Romney is going to praise Bush for keeping America safe (since 9/11), then what about the fact that 9/11 occurred during the Bush-Cheney administration and a GOP-led Congress? Of course, that’s not a completely fair assessment, but Romney’s argument cuts both ways. In addition, if America is safer as a result of the Bush years, why is it that top trends forecaster, Gerald Celente, and National Intelligence Director, Dennis Blair, have issued warnings that Al-Qaeda is about to attempt another 9/11 magnitude strike against the US this year? After all, President Obama is following Bush’s national security script, in an even more robust manner in several key metrics.
Finally, Romney’s Bush-adulation seems to completely ignore the political lessons of 2006 and 2008, when voters strongly rejected the Republican party. Many would argue that the GOP collapse came about as a direct result of anti-Bush sentiment. Even now, some Tea Party supporters recognize the Bush administration’s grave missteps, especially on the fiscal front.
So, instead of cheering Romney’s tribute to President Bush, CPAC conservatives should have loudly booed. If the GOP wants to regain any sense of credibility on its respectable platform of limited government and fiscal discipline, then it should distance itself as far away as possible from George W. Bush.
Sadly, though, as CATO Institute scholar and CPAC attendee, David Boaz, pointed out, this was the same crowd that chanted “Four more years!” when President Bush spoke at the conference in February 2008. About six months later, the US economy imploded and trillions of dollars of federal bailouts began in earnest.