Bush's Answer to Chuck Todd: Go Shopping
During President Obama's press conference Tuesday, NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd demonstrated once again why he ought to return to his previous role as a political analyst. Even as Americans are losing their jobs, homes and retirement savings, Todd asked the President "why haven't you asked for something specific that the public should be sacrificing to participate in this economic recovery?" Of course, Todd only needed to look to Obama's predecessor for another presidential model of sacrifice. Whether the crisis was war or recession, President George W. Bush's message to Americans was the same: go shopping.
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the self-proclaimed "war president" made no call for Americans to sacrifice in any way. President Bush did not ask the citizens of the United States to fight, pay for or otherwise endure privation in the struggle to come against the Al Qaeda network responsible for the devastation on 9/11. Instead, Bush argued, when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping:
"Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed."
But while President Bush's idea of national mobilization to put the country on a war-time footing in 2001 consisted of asking Americans for their "continued participation and confidence in the American economy," five years later he offered the same tonic in the face of looming recession.
As economists including Paul Krugman and Morgan Stanley's Steve Roach warned in late 2006 that the United States was slipping towards an economic downturn, President Bush that December urged Americans to reach for their credit cards:
"I encourage you all to go shopping more."
For his part, President Obama last night could be forgiven his exasperation in the face of Chuck Todd's banality. "With respect to the American people," he said, "I think folks are sacrificing left and right."
Which is exactly right. Barack Obama's predecessor never asked for sacrifice, but thanks to the deepening Bush recession he bequeathed, the American people now sacrifice in ways large and small every day.