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Protecting Trump Now, Limbaugh and Kudlow Blamed Obama for 2008 Bear Market

February 26, 2020

Furious over the Dow’s 1,900 point plunge over the past three days, President Trump held a press conference Wednesday to try to calm markets. Echoing the comments of his National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow that “we have contained” Coronavirus and the American economy is “holding up nicely,” Trump declared the pandemic risk to Americans is “very low” because “we’re very, very ready for this.” Not content to rest there, the President predictably tried to lay blame for the steep slide on Wall Street on Democrats:

“I think they're very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on the stage making fools out of themselves.”

Of course, with that slander the President was only regurgitating the sound bites vomited up by right-wing media. On Monday, Fox Business host Charles Payne proclaimed, “The Bernie factor is finally rearing its head in the stock market.” Bond king Jeff Gundlach, too, attributed the stock markets’ natural reaction to global supply chain disruptions to Bernie’s “rejection of a market based economy.” Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh and other of the usual suspects on the right are accusing Democrats and even the “deep state” of “weaponizing” the COVID19 outbreak to damage Donald Trump politically.

If you have the nauseating feeling that you’ve seen this GOP fraud before, that’s because you did. As the United States financial system teetered on the brink of total collapse in the summer and fall of President George W. Bush’s last year in office, the conservative commentariat instead blamed Democrats and Barack Obama.

The conservative propaganda machine began perpetuating the "Obama bear market" myth long before the 44th President even took the oath of office. The first installment of the Republicans' "previsionist" history unsurprisingly came from CNBC host and former Reagan advisor Larry Kudlow. That right-wing water carrier, who in April 2008 compared the deepening recession to an enema (calling it "an economic cleansing" and crowing that "recessions are therapeutic"), blamed a one-day 242-point drop on the Democratic Convention:

"Are the Denver Dems downing the stock market today? The Dow is off 230 points, starting right from the get-go. So-called market analysts are blaming financials and the credit crunch as they always do. But there's more.

Obama and Biden gave us plenty of class warfare in their Springfield, Ill., get together on Saturday. Tax the rich. Redistribute income and wealth. Go after all those corporate meanies. Trade protection...

...With the Denver Dems strutting their stuff, this could be a bumpy week for stocks. Did anyone say free-market capitalism is the best path to prosperity?"

With Obama's election on November 4th, that warning shot turned into a barrage. Within 48 hours, the mullahs of right-wingistan didn't merely blame Obama for two days of market declines; they traveled back in time to lay the entire Bush recession at his feet.

Echoing CNBC's Kudlow, Dick Morris claimed the markets will "continue to tank...not just because he's a radical, not just because he's a Democrat, but because he's going to raise the capital gains tax. While Fox News' Gretchen Carlson announced, "there's a lot of feeling in the market not reacting very well to the election of Barack Obama," Fred Barnes proclaimed, "There is great uncertainty out there about [Obama's] policies." And that Thursday, the always execrable Rush Limbaugh on November 6, 2008 laid it all at Obama's feet:

"The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen. Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession. Might turn into a depression. He hasn't done anything yet but his ideas are killing the economy. His ideas are killing Wall Street...

...The market's down today because of the jobless numbers. That's how the Drive-Bys see it. Uhhhhh, we have the largest market plunge after an election in history. Thank you, man-child Barack Obama."

As the Dow Jones continued its slide below 7,000 in March, 2009, the conservative catcalls become a chorus. Lou Dobbs, the self-proclaimed "Mr. Independent" then on CNN, announced on March 9, 2009, "This is now the Obama bear market." That same day, the Wall Street Journal declared, "The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem." House Minority Leader John Boehner was among the Republican leaders bemoaning "the Obama economy" and insisted that since Obama's inauguration six weeks earlier, "Certainly the stock market hasn't acted very well." Later that month, the Journal's Daniel Henninger blasted Obama's "radical presidency":

"A Democratic Party that was always anti-Wall Street is becoming anti- Main Street."

The drumbeat hardly ended there. On March 8, 2009, Fox News host Chris Wallace asked an uncomfortable John McCain, "Can this now fairly be called the Obama bear market?"  That propaganda only echoed the Republican talking points regurgitated two days earlier by Bloomberg in article titled, "'Obama Bear Market' Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps" and the Wall Street Journal rant, "Obama's Radicalism is Killing the Dow." On March 6th, Sean Hannity was nearly orgasmic as he trumpeted the declines on Wall Street:

And our headline this Friday night: Welcome to Day Number 46 of "Obama's Bear Market." Now, that's what some news organizations are calling it tonight as the Dow Jones industrial average actually finished up about 30 points today at the end of a disastrous week.

According to Bloomberg News, the Dow has now dropped faster during the first six weeks of the Obama administration than any other administration in at least 90 years. But is that a surprise after weeks of talking down the economy?

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the Obama poor house: the stock market started its steady, upward swing. But for the conservative commentariat, of course, credit for that progress did not go to President Obama.

On April 18, 2009, Fox News displayed an on-screen caption proclaiming, "Stocks Rally as 'Tea Party' Rallies Take Nation by Storm. Host Brenda Buttner described the surge on Wall Street as "a Tea Party rally." As Media Matters recounted:

Buttner later asked Bulls & Bears commentator Gary B. Smith: "[P]art of the tea party was having voices heard. For so long, all we were hearing about was nationalizing banks and socialism and all that. Just having this out there, does that help Wall Street? Does that help the bulls?" Smith responded: "Absolutely, Brenda. You know, first of all, you heard for so many weeks and months that, you know, the whole country, you know, Obama won overwhelmingly, and it looked like, you know, we were going to go lockstep down this, you know, this socialist path." He continued: "And then we started having these tea parties," which, according to Smith, "shows that ... the normal, average American is just kind of sick of all the, you know, the tax-and-spend culture." He concluded: "So, I think it's all a good thing, and I think that it's helped the rally."

But it was Neil Cavuto of the Fox Business Channel who takes the cake for trying to claim that, well, black is white. As the Dow soared past 10,000 by October 2009, Cavuto asked:

What was once the Bush recession is now the Bush recovery?

And so it went. On his March 18, 2010 show, Larry Kudlow asked CNBC's Jim Cramer about his belief that "Obamacare will topple the stock market." Since then, the Dow has jumped another 27 percent. But with George W. Bush in the White House in April 2007, Kudlow expressed a different view of what the Wall Street's performance said about presidential leadership on the economy. In April 2010 and again last month, Paul Krugman helpfully recalled Kudlow's words:

"I have long believed that stock markets are the best barometer of the health, wealth and security of a nation. And today's stock market message is an unmistakable vote of confidence for the president."

A month before the 2012 presidential election, the Republicans’ best and brightest gave the “Obama Bear Market” myth one more try. Crowing that Mitt's strong performance in that year’s first debate heralded the "Romney Rally." CNBC announced, "U.S. stocks have been in rally mode today. We've had some guests who feel it has a lot to do with Mitt Romney's strong debate showing last night." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal gleefully asked:

Can we call this the Romney rally?

Considering stocks have been higher all day despite a dearth of catalysts, some market participants are pointing to Republican candidate Mitt Romney's perceived victory over President Obama in last night's debate as a potential catalyst for the rally.

"U.S. equities are getting a Romney push," says Andrew Brenner, global head of international fixed income at National Alliance. "Seems like the marketplace believes Romney is better for stocks and the economy."

As it turned out, not so much.  Barack Obama not only defeated Republican Mitt Romney, he presided over a robust economic expansion that he bequeathed to his successor. And the supposed Obama Bear Market?  During Barack Obama’s eight years in office, the Dow mushroomed from 7,949.09 to 19,804.72, a jump of 149 percent. That’s an achievement Larry Kudlow’s boss has yet to match.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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