Posted by Maxwell Abbott on July 21, 2010

Michael SteeleRepublican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele's latest gaffe turned a lot of heads when, speaking at an RNC fundraiser, Steele stated that the war in Afghanistan is "a war of Obama's choosing" that the American public does not want. It is obviously ludicrous to assert that the war in Afghanistan, which began in October of 2001, when Barack Obama was a state senator, was somehow chosen by the sitting president. The statement caused conservative firebrand William Kristol to call for Steele's resignation. A dismayed Kristol stated that Steele's blunder put him "at odds with 100% of the Republican Party." Unfortunately, Kristol is totally wrong to say that all Republicans disagree with Steele. While Steele's statements may be extreme, they fall in line with a widespread pattern of conservative efforts to blame Obama for problems created by President Bush.

The Gulf Oil Spill

On the most pressing political issues of the day, conservatives attempt to saddle President Obama with all of the responsibility, while failing to even mention a role of the Bush administration. As early as April, Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge were already referring to the Gulf oil spill as "Obama's Katrina." Yet throughout the past several months, conservative pundits and politicians have insisted that George Bush had no role to play in this disaster. Rudy Giuliani said President Obama has "been president now for 18 months" so "it's about time we stopped blaming Bush (for the oil spill)." Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino said that it was "offensive," "small," and "ridiculous" to put any blame for the Gulf oil spill on the Bush administration. These comments completely ignore the culture of corruption that developed within the Minerals Management Service, the agency responsible for overseeing offshore drilling, under Bush' tenure. They also ignore the fact that Bush's energy policy was created by a Dick Cheney task force which relied on the recommendation of oil company executives.

The Economy

When it comes to the economy, conservatives are just as eager to blame President Obama for current troubles. Sean Hannity, on his Fox News show, shouted that Obama "destroyed" the economy and Wall Street. Hannity also seems to turn a blind eye to the fact that President Bush presided over the weakest eight-year span for the U.S. economy in decades, when measured in Gross Domestic Product, unemployment, and average income. If the tables were turned, and a Republican president inherited a weak economy from a Democratic predecessor, conservatives would have no problem passing blame to the previous administration. This is clearly demonstrated by Rush Limbaugh's statement from 1992 that "the worst economic period in the last 50 years was under Jimmy Carter, which led to the 1981-82 recession, a recession more punishing than the current one." Yet Ronald Reagan, a virtual conservative deity, was president in 1982, more than a year after he took over from Carter. Yet in 2010, more than a year after Obama has taken power from Bush, Limbaugh and his ilk call this "an Obama Recession."

The War in Afghanistan

Finally, on the war in Afghanistan, conservatives frequently demonstrate that Michael Steele was not too far off their agenda when he made his latest mistake. Last year, Ann Coulter said, "the one real problem with Obama on national security" is "he's putting more troops into Afghanistan, which is insane... The Russians couldn't win there. Peter the Great couldn't win there. Oh, but maybe the messiah can win there, ok." Coulter's cynical remarks echo Steele's sentiment that Obama is to blame for the war, which any responsible leader would abandon right away. The popular Tea Partier Ron Paul supported Steele's comments outright stating, "he is absolutely right: Afghanistan is now Obama's war. During the 2008 campaign, Obama was out in front in insisting that more troops be sent to Afghanistan. Obama called for expanding the war even as he pretended to be a peace candidate." It is fair to give Obama some of the blame for the dire straits the country finds itself in today, but any finger pointing must be done more responsibly. Conservatives have created double standards which absolve their leaders of any fault. Obama must be held accountable, but the American people should not forget that the obstacles we face today have deep roots in the Bush administration.

Comments

The premise here is that the, the economy can all be blamed on the previous administrations. Sure, Bush had some major screwups, but President Obama has been in office for more than 19 months. During the last 19 months he has signed a significant amount of legislation. No one can intellectually argue that he has had no effect on the economy.

Even stupid people intuitively know that you can't rack up 4 times as much debt as the previous administration and not have a profound and immediate effect on the economy.

President Bush has some definite blame here, but so does President Obama.

I completely agree with your last statement and that I what I have argued throughout this blog. What I am trying to reiterate is that the conservative media is not too far from Steele's outlandish remark that the War in Afghanistan is a war of "Obama's Choosing." They continually pin 100% of the blame on President Obama while failing to acknowledge a role for the Bush Administration. Of the three issues I outlined, the one where Obama deserves the most blame is the Gulf Oil spill. But to call this Obama's Katrina is absurd when Bush did nothing to address the corruption in the MMS that occured under his watch. Furthermore, a government response to Katrina could do much more to evacuate the people trapped in the city. In the Gulf oil spill, the best human intervention can hope for is to capture or contain about 20% of the oil, according to Dec Doran, an oil spill consultant who worked on the Exxon Valdez spill. Bush's inaction during Katrina was much more damaging than Obama's during this oil spill.

Here's the problem, and this will always be the problem. Everyone is pointing a finger at the other guy. This isn't about the American people, it's about politicians from all sides trying to take care of the lobbyist who are filling their pockets and trying to make sure they can keep a job to keep their pockets filled. Rarely do I believe that any politician has his constituents truly at heart. There's always an agenda. Why did we really go to Iraq? Why are we really still in Afghanistan? Why did Bush do nothing about Katrina? What took Obama so long to go after BP and start cleaning oil?
We'll never know what the behind the scenes details are. But I doubt we're everyone's first thought.

But, let's be real. How can anyone blame Obama for the state of the economy? Yes, he's been in office for over a year, but it took 8 years (or longer) to screw up the economy.

Do we have any idea what the state of the economy would be if the stimulus package had not been passed? There is no way to know for certain, we can only guess.

As far as the Afghan War, anyone calling it Obama's war is deluded. He did not start the war, he inherited it. The Bush Administration screwed it up to pursue a different agenda in Iraq, a totally pointless war.

Has Obama been perfect? Hardly, but he's been an improvement on Bush, and I suspect better than McCain would have been. Again, there is no way to be sure.

I can't disagree more with this piece. In a very rare occurrence, I actually quite agree with something a Republican said. By ramping up troops, dramatically increasing military spending, initiating drone attacks (that kill mostly civilians) on a scale never before seen, and funneling more business to private military contractors than Bush did in Iraq, the Obama Administration has absolutely owned the war in Afghanistan. This is Obama's war every bit as much as Vietnam was Lyndon Johnson's war, and the Obama Administration should be made to answer for the war crimes committed in it every bit as much as Bush should be for Iraq. Otherwise you are committing a painfully obvious double-standard favoring one of the two parties of big business.