|President Bush Inherited His Share of “Messes,” Too|
By Timothy H. Lee
Thursday, March 11 2010
Imagine President George W. Bush slurring his predecessor Bill Clinton in the following manner during his 2002 State of the Union address:
“One year ago, I took office amid a developing terrorist plot that would soon become the worst attack on American soil in history, an economy rocked by severe recession following the unsustainable tech bubble, a stock market on the verge of collapse and a military weakened by eight years of neglect. We cannot afford another so-called economic ‘expansion’ like the one from the past decade – what some call the ‘lost decade’ – where prosperity was built on a tech bubble and financial speculation, while the cost of health care and tuition reached record highs. The problem is, that’s what we did for eight years. That’s what helped lead us into this crisis. It’s what helped lead to 9/11. And we cannot do it again.”
Or imagine The Washington Post running the following passage back in March 2001, merely two months after Bush’s inauguration:
“It hasn’t taken long for the recriminations to return – or for the Bush Administration to begin talking about the unwelcome ‘inheritance’ of its predecessor. Over the past month, Bush has reminded the public at every turn that he is facing problems ‘inherited’ from the Clinton Administration, using increasingly bracing language to describe the challenges his administration is up against. The ‘deepening economic crisis’ that the President described six days after taking office became ‘a big mess’ in remarks this month to graduating police cadets in Columbus, Ohio. ‘By any measure,’ he said during a March 4 event calling for government contracting reform, ‘my administration has inherited a national security disaster.’”
Those aren’t quotes from President Bush, of course. They’re paraphrased portions of Barack Obama’s 2010 State of the Union speech, and a March 2009 Washington Post report on Obama’s emerging habit of scapegoating, respectively.
Indeed, the very thought of President Bush habitually whining in such a petty, childish, un-presidential manner is implausible, even though each of those hypothetical complaints would have been accurate. After all, Bush entered office with a 9/11 plot perfected during the Clinton years about to strike our nation’s capital and economic nerve center with devastating effect. That attack came atop a 2001 economic downturn triggered by a tech bubble and stock market decline, as well as eight years of post-Cold War military erosion.
The truth is, every President could claim that he “inherited a mess” upon entering the White House.
In addition to the “messes” that Bush inherited from Clinton, Clinton in turn entered office following an economic downturn under George H. W. Bush, who in turn entered office facing the international uncertainties created by America’s Cold War victory. Ronald Reagan, of course, inherited colossal economic and geo-political difficulties from Jimmy Carter, who himself entered the White House in the aftermath of Watergate. President Nixon inherited the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson inherited growing social unrest, John Kennedy inherited Cuban dilemmas, Dwight Eisenhower inherited the Korean War and Harry Truman inherited a continuing world war.
To be sure, occasional references to preceding administrations, usually oblique, weren’t unheard of.
But not even the notoriously insecure and petulant Bill Clinton engaged in the chronic scapegoating that led commentator George Will to label George Bush Barack Obama’s “Great Alibi.”
Ironically, Obama actually owes a great deal of gratitude to Bush.
As noted by Randall Hoven in his March 5, 2010 American Thinker commentary entitled Poor Obama, Obama inherited an Iraq war finally heading toward victory due to Bush’s bold 2007 troop surge. From 2007 to 2008, American fatalities fell a remarkable 65% in Iraq even as the surge achieved its objectives despite predictions of failure from Obama. As for Obama’s all-purpose recession card, Hoven reminds us that America has endured some eleven recessions since 1945, and the economy was only 2% below its previous peak when Obama was inaugurated. Furthermore, America’s gross domestic product decline was less severe than the declines in Japan, Germany, Britain, Italy and the entire European average.
In other words, scapegoating a previous administration is a habit into which every American president or foreign leader could descend.
Obama’s skill in plumbing new depths in deflecting blame for his growing unpopularity and incompetence, however, speaks volumes about his character and ability to fulfill the role of Commander-in-Chief.
With the disastrous fiscal and strategic course on which he seeks to steer America, he’d better just hope that his successor doesn’t opt to repeat his behavior. He’s certainly on his way to providing plenty of scapegoating material.
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