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Republicans Call Kettle Black

April 23, 2012

While all eyes in the Beltway were focused on innocent dogs and stay-at-home moms, Republicans have been unveiling their strategy for the 2012 presidential race. President Obama, they claim, is responsible both for failed GOP policies and the unprecedented Republican obstructionism designed to prevent him from fixing them. The fall-out from the Bush recession, the right-wing's anti-immigrant xenophobia and even the GOP's record-setting filibustering are all Obama's fault. The Republicans are, in a nutshell, calling the kettle black.
That conservative misdirection starts with the economy. Last week, certain GOP nominee Mitt Romney used a shuttered factory as a backdrop to once again recycle Margaret Thatcher's 1979 theme that "Obama isn't working." Sadly for Republicans, the dry wall plant in question closed in 2008 when George W. Bush was still in office. And while unemployment in Ohio has dropped a full point since Barack Obama took the oath of office, Romney protested that "had the president's economic plans worked ... it [the factory] would be open by now, but it's still empty." As his Etch-a-Sketch adviser Eric Fehrnstrom put it:

"The fact that it struggled through the last three years is not the fault of Barack Obama's predecessor, it's the fault of this administration and the failure of their policies to really get this economy going again."

Unfortunately for the Romney campaign and its repeatedly debunked slander that President Obama "made the economy worse," the overwhelming consensus of economists (including the non-partisan CBO) says otherwise. The stimulus not only saved millions of jobs and boosted GDP growth, but prevented, in the words of John McCain's 2008 economic adviser Mark Zandi, "Great Depression 2.0." Nevertheless, former Bush budget chief and possible future Romney running mate Mitch Daniels offered a new version of the dodge on Sunday:

"The president did inherit a mess but it's not the first time it's ever happened. He's done less with the mess than anyone else ever did."

Of course, Mitch Daniels knows all about supposed "inherited" recessions. As Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget, Daniels declared in August 2002 the "case is closed" that his boss "inherited that recession from the previous administration." While Daniels repeated that claim last year, President Bush used it to book-end presidency in January 2009:

"In terms of the economy, look, I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession."

Sadly for the Republicans, the American people are focused on the second part of that statement. (As well they should be, when one RNC spokesman said the 2012 GOP economic platform will simply be "that [Bush] program, just updated." By almost a two-to-one margin, polls show voters believe "it's still Bush's fault."
That Congress has failed to pass comprehensive immigration reform is Barack Obama's fault, at least according to Mitt Romney and the Republican National Committee:

"Obama promised pathway [to citizenship] and DREAM Act ... and he delivered nothing. He's not to be trusted," Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus told reporters recently, saying Obama "either lied or is so grossly negligent in following through on his promises when it comes to immigration." On the campaign trail, Romney has accused Obama of using the issue of immigration as a "political weapon."

As Romney put it last week:

"The Obama administration has brought hard times to Hispanics in America."

Latino voters aren't buying it. After all, John McCain captured only 31 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2008, in large part because of his dramatic reversal on the comprehensive immigration reform bill he sponsored - and his Republican Senate colleagues crushed - in 2007. A recent Pew Research poll shows Democrats enjoy a three-fold (and growing) advantage among registered Latino voters. Worse still, Mitt's high-profile backing by SB 1070 author Russell Pearce, a bill Romney crowed was a "model" for the nation, may put GOP stronghold Arizona in play. And on top of it, Romney is rapidly alienating Hispanics with his hardline rhetoric on immigration, talking points that include vetoing the DREAM Act and encouraging even long-time illegal immigrants to "self-deport."
It's no wonder the likes of Alberto Gonzales are fretting that such talk is "harmful to the party." His Bush administration colleague Condi Rice lamented, "I don't know when immigrants became the enemy" While he says he has taken himself out of the Mitt Veepstakes, Senator Marco Rubio like Jeb Bush and Karl Rove insists, "We cannot be the anti-illegal immigration party."
But if Mitt Romney is banking on Latino disappointment with Obama to win over Hispanic voters, his allies trying to blame supposed do-nothing Democrats in the Senate for the nation's woes.

On the passage of public laws, arguably its most important job, the Senate notched just 90, the second lowest in 20 years, and it passed a total of 402 measures, also the second lowest. And as the president has been complaining about, the chamber confirmed a 20-year low of 19,815 judicial and other nominations.
The Secretary of the Senate's office didn't comment on the statistics, but it did provide a comparison to action in 2009, the first term of the 111th Senate, when many of President Obama's initiatives were considered by the Democratically-controlled House and Senate. By comparison the number of Senate bills offered last year was down 30 percent, the number of amendments offered sank 55 percent, and the number of roll call votes dropped 40 percent.

Of course, the real explanation for the slowdown in the Senate isn't Democratic sloth, but Republican intransigence. Despite new Speaker John Boehner's repeated pledges to make jobs the GOP's number one priority, the first act of House Republicans was a bill to restrict abortion rights. Their chief accomplishments included threats to shut down the government and prevent an increase in the debt ceiling, which Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell later boasted was "a hostage that's worth ransoming" and promising "we will go through the process again." As the Paul Kane of the Washington Post summed it up:

Time and again last year, House Republican leaders faced a nearly in­trac­table opponent: the very freshman class that propelled them into the majority with the historic 2010 midterm elections.
Rebelling from the outset of the 112th Congress and later wreaking internal havoc during talks to increase the Treasury Department's ability to borrow funds, the freshman class repeatedly created problems for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), according to a new book.

And what one GOP representative termed a "monster" in 2011 had over the previous session shattered every mark for obstructionism in the Senate. From the GOP's record-setting use of the filibuster and its united front against Obama's legislative agenda to blocking judicial nominees and its threats to trigger a U.S. default, the Republican Party broke new ground in its perpetual quest to ensure that Barack Obama will be a one-term president.
Which he should be, Mitt Romney and his GOP allies now argue, because everything they did was President Obama's fault.


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

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