Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 28, 2009

MATALIN'S ALTERNATE UNIVERSE.... Mary Matalin, one of CNN's more brazen partisan hacks, was complaining bitterly about the Obama White House yesterday, and whined that the president "never gives a speech where he doesn't explicitly or implicitly look backwards." In literally the next breath, Matalin proceeded to look backwards.

"I was there [in the Bush White House]. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history. And President Bush dealt with it. And within a year of his presidency at this comparable time, unemployment was at 5 percent. And we were creating jobs."

As a factual matter, Matalin, as is usually the case, doesn't have the foggiest idea what she's talking about. Bush didn't "inherit" the attacks of 9/11 -- they happened more than eight months into Bush's presidency, after his administration largely ignored warnings about the threat. Bush didn't "inherit" a recession -- it began in March 2001. Matalin didn't even get the unemployment numbers right.

Putting aside Matalin's striking detachment from reality, though, there are two broader angles to keep in mind here. The first is the hypocrisy -- throughout 2009, Republicans and their allies shriek every time President Obama references the challenges he "inherited." Pointing out the spectacular failures of the last administration has somehow become verboten, as if it's a sign of presidential weakness.

But notice Matalin's contradiction -- Obama isn't supposed to reflect on what he inherited, but as long as we're on the subject, let's all reflect on what Bush inherited, even if the claims themselves are demonstrably wrong.

The second is the hackery. Bush was arguably one of the biggest and most painful presidential failures in American history, which makes Republican operatives like Matalin all the more anxious to keep the "blame Clinton for everything" meme going strong, even now.

The underlying spin isn't exactly compelling. The Matalin pitch, in a nutshell, is, "Sure, Obama inherited the Great Recession, two wars, a job market in freefall, a huge deficit, and crushing debt, a health care system in shambles, a climate crisis, an ineffective energy policy, an equally ineffective immigration policy, a housing crisis, the collapse of the U.S. auto industry, a mess at Gitmo, and a severely tarnished global reputation. But what Bush got from Clinton wasn't exactly a walk in the park."

Except it was. After cleaning up H.W. Bush's mess, Clinton bequeathed a prosperous, peaceful country, held in high regard around the world, with a shrinking debt, and surpluses far into the future. There was a burgeoning terrorist threat emerging, but Clinton's team provided Bush with the necessary tools and warnings necessary to keep the nation safe. Bush failed miserably, despite having been given an incredible opportunity to succeed.

Matalin would have us believe Bush "inherited" a mess. If she were capable of shame, she ought to be embarrassed peddling such nonsense on national television.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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But..but...didn't Bush save us from our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity???

Posted by: majun on December 28, 2009 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Buh buh buh butttt Clinton
A great big thanks to M Matalin for resurrecting a chestnut too long hidden under the screams and fears of the right wing disbelief that a non white occupies the unitary executives sacred ground .

Posted by: FRP on December 28, 2009 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

CNN and other media outlets that give Maitlin a platform to spout her deranged horseshit are the ones who should be shamed and embarrassed.

But as Jon Stewart said, CNN specializes in damaging the country.

Posted by: WyldPirate on December 28, 2009 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Those talking points got Bush reelected in 2004. You can argue against their truthiness but you can't argue against their effectiveness. Keep repeating what works!

Posted by: lou on December 28, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK


Oh, yes:


Posted by: kleven-stein on December 28, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Do NOT let these people re-write history! The accuracy of their stories must be confronted whenever it is in question.

Mouthpieces like Matalin eat away at the truth incrementally, like ants. They skim a percent off the top here and there and before you know it main streem media make them look like influential people.

The second Bush administration utterly failed to protect America from terrorism, from disaster, from economic collapse, from cynicism. For these and many more reasons America became a much less hopeful nation under George Bush. We must always remember this.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 28, 2009 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

In the Days of Yore we had the NYT, weekly NEWS magazines, and thoughtful souls employed by both.

Today we have the internet, your face, my tube, tweets and twitters and instant messaging.

The 21st Century paradigm is Facts Don't Matter.

Posted by: DAY on December 28, 2009 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

It's clear that the Bushies are trying to pull a Reagan--to erase the corruption and incompetence of the Bush regime through the constant repetition of false history. Dana Perino makes the same claims Matalin does. Next we'll be hearing there we're no hurricanes in the 00s.

The problem is that it's hard to say it won't work when they know they can say such things on television without contradiction from the"journalists" who interview them.

Posted by: Imo on December 28, 2009 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK


I would turn your statement around and say that in the internet era history is no longer the prerogative of political leaders, main stream media spokespersons and elite academics.

Facts, and the opinions derived from them, ALWAYS matter. Look at the stories coming out of Iran via the internet, cell phones, twitter. To listen to Ahmadinejab you would think all was well in Tehran but in fact the country is in turmoil. This valuable, grassroots intelligence has a DIRECT impact the Defense and State Departments' decision whether or not to respond to the emerging Iranian nuclear capability with military force.

Whether it's GOP misinformation about health care reform, social security, global warming politicization of the Justice Department, etc. etc. history is much more participatory, complex
and insightful on account of the internet -- precisely because we have more facts to work with.

A poor grasp of facts won't prevent people like Matalin, Palin, Beck, etc. from mouthing off online and in front of cameras but the internet now provides us a huge credibility checking tool that must be exercised. Particularly so as the future of print news is re-defined.

In the future, opinion and how history is shaped will depend much more on electrons than on paper pulp and soy-based ink. If you want to see a Dickensian "ghost of the internet to come" just look at restrictions to the internet in the West Bank. It's ugly and it's preventing important stories, and history, from being told.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 28, 2009 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Bush was arguably one of the biggest and most painful presidential failures in American history..."
Uhm, Steve, who's arguing that he wasn't? The question is, was he "one of," or the biggest?
Me? My money's on the latter. It's kind of tough when your legacy says you were as bad as, or worse, than Buchanan. One left us with a Civil War, and the other left us with... with... uh, an Uncivil War?

And, Jesus, how stupid am I? I thought it was 9/11/2001! I'd forgotten that it was 9/11/2000. How could I forget Clinton and his bullhorn moment? Silly me...
As for Mary, all you need to know about this lying hack is that she worked for Cheney.
Nuff said...

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 28, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Shame on Matalin? More shame on the MSM who doesn't confront the lies. As long as inaccuracies are presented as "truths" or "opinions" ( opinions are not facts that can be easily verified) with no pushback more energy goes down the rabbit hole in defending these idiotic statements than into forward motion. Unfortunately, it appears to be an effective strategy with the public no matter how outlandish the statements.

Posted by: DTR on December 28, 2009 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Among the many disappointments that I have with the Obama administration, the biggest is that the criminality and destruction of our constitution by the previous administration has not been pursued.

Mary Matalin was a member of the Iraq Study Group that was formed within the Bush White House to 'market' war on Iraq. She was a member of the group formed to sell war like companies market toothpaste and pharmaceutical drugs. As such, she is among the many members of the Bush Criminal Enterprise who should be standing in front of the justice of an International War Crimes Tribunal.

To point out that she lied, she lies, and she will continue to lie is an underestimation of the damage that she has done and will continue to do to our country.

A major shame on Obama for not upholding his oath of office to protect the constitution and to uphold the laws of our country!

Posted by: AngryOldVet on December 28, 2009 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Former President Bush led an ill-begotten Presidency where his vice-president claimed not to be a part of the executive or legislative branch, torture became a policy implemented and then vehemently argued as legitimate within in our political heritage, Habeas corpus was scrapped, and a CIA agent was outed!

Bush's administration tried to politically pack the US Attorneys' ranks, lied its way into a costly war not worth the blood of our soldiers it sent into battle, implemented an illegal surveillance program on American citizens, used fear as a national motivator, embarrassed the OPOTUS in front of other world leaders, chopped more wood on a ranch than read NIE reports, kept a man-sized safe in the OVPOTUS, never offered to pay for any of the policies his administration undertook, turned a national surplus into a record breaking deficit, and oh yeah, watched over the worst attack on American soil and against world citizens ever!

Yes, Ms. Matalin is in uber-denial regarding the eight years that directly precede this moment in American history. I would most probably be too if I were affiliated with any of the above! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 28, 2009 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

You lefties really astound me with how much you let your rabid emotionally driven hatred of someone cloud facts. If Matlin, Malkin or heaven forbid Beck says something then automatically what they said is wrong. Just to clear something up for you, the 911 attacks were in fact planned before President Bush Jr. was president. What I find very telling is one the on hand you are pointing out the lie by omission from Matlin where she says President Bush Jr "inherited the attacks of 911" and then on the other you lie by omission by stating that 911 happened because President Bush Jr "largely ignored warnings.

Posted by: mikeL on December 28, 2009 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

MikeL I have a couple questions for you. This has nothing to do with ideology or hate.
What date did the 911 attacks happen on? Answer Setember 11,2001. Who was president at that time? Answer George W Bush. Listen just because you believe something that doesn't mean it's true.

Posted by: Gandalf on December 28, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

There is an impossible situation , a situation which is reminiscent of in my inexperience , of the recent economic bubbles . Histories should paint a rough approximate life expectancy for our little media "bubbles" . Right wing bias and the public are seeking different goals . The blind partisans and the instructive pain for the public should create enough heat and light to frame the actors intentions , beyond the daily trivial vicious tactical attitudes . After a while even a cat tires of a dead mouse .
Most of the self imposed blind folks are fixed frames i.e. Jonah and Mom . For the rest of us who do not take an oath to sacrifice our wits for another's table , there is a shabbiness to the veneer of that shining city , indomitable will , yadda etc itis .
For my self , after the complete breakdown of the media during the Clinton presidency , it seems as near to infinitely impossible that these tired old tropes continue at all . It was , after all , only about four years into the saintly footsteps of the god like raygun that the right wing bias in the media began .
Unless I am wrong

Posted by: FRP on December 28, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

MikeL, I won't even dignify that desperate spin with a "nice try." It's a barely adequate, feeble try. Bush had 8 months in office to get up to speed on the terror threat, and detailed, thorough briefings about Al Qaeda from the outgoing administration. He had a PDB delivered in person by Tenet, who flew to Crawford in order to read it out loud to him, knowing that the POTUS was too lazy to read it himself. Bush responded by sneering "Okay, now you've covered your ass" and went fishing. Can't you just see him clapping on his drugstore-cowboy hat as he picked up his fishing rod?

Meanwhile, over at his Department of Justice, Ashcroft was screaming at the attorneys who reported to him that he did not want to hear any more about terrorism. He had bigger fish to fry, like abolishing pornography and winning the "war on drugs." He hadn't annointed himself with Crisco and accepted a mission from God to chase some Ay-rabs with funny names, he was there to win the Culture War against people like Clinton. So George Bush "inherited" the attacks of 9/11 about the same way he "inherited" his Texas accent from his New England blue-blood daddy.

Posted by: T-Rex on December 28, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

You're funny.
Not in a humourous, ha-ha, kind of funny. But in a, "Jeez, how does he remember to inhale" kind of funny... The kind where you hate to laugh at the stupid, but you can't help it, and feel like a bad person for laughing.
Did you even read what you just wrote? If, indeed, the plans were thought out during Clinton, it wasn't Clinton who ignored them. It was Shrub. Remember the PDB? The one where he thanked the CIA rep for 'covering his ass?' Also, wasn't it the exiting Clinton adminstration that warned the incoming Bush one that Al Queda was the biggest threat? They should have amended that statement to read, "After you, that is, W..."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 28, 2009 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Students of history will also remember that Republicans acted exactly the same way after the 9/11 attacks themselves -- which may be what Matalin is remembering here.

According to Republicans, it was unpatriotic to criticize George W. Bush on whose watch the 9/11 attacks occured because to do so would be to weaken the president at a time when he needed to be strong. However, it was perfectly OK to criticize Clinton for his failure to eradicate the terrorist problem altogether when he had the chance, and special hearings in the GOP controlled Congress were convened to do just that.

As for GOP criticism of Obama that he reminds people of the problems he inherited from Bush, this serves two purposes. First, it is intended to inhibit criticism of Bush and so promote the sort of public anmnesia of Bush's failures. Second, by taking the problems he inherited off the table it helps the GOP paint Obama as a radical since so many of the big-ticket spending items of Obamas's are in fact reactions to the problems created by Bush. Eliminate Bush as a reason and Obama comes off as just a typical tax and spend liberal extremist.

Posted by: Ted Frier on December 28, 2009 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

There are compelling differences in the ways that Bush and Obama dealt with economic problems in the months prior to assuming office. Given the importance of mass psychology in the operations of Wall Street, it is important that Obama, facing an economic crisis already underway, got on board with efforts to shore up the economy and to talk up the recovery efforts. On the other hand, Bush, who faced an expected downturn in the stock market, which had been wobbling for months but had so far refused to fall, put some effort into talking down the economy, so that he could claim that the downturn began before he took office.

Posted by: N.Wells on December 28, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

The only thing Bush "inherited" from Clinton was a lousy blue dress. BFD!

Posted by: Marko on December 28, 2009 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Obama-bashers are also very fond of jeering that he's a fraud because he hasn't delivered Change and Hope as he promised. Uh yeah, sure, those were real specific policy statements, weren't they? But anyway, let's take a moment to recall that Bush promised to "restore honor and dignity to the office of the Presidency." Well, if by that he meant never getting caught with his pants down, yeah, maybe he made good on that, although no one has yet given a satisfactory explanation for the fact that Jeff Gannon frequently signed in on the White House guest book and didn't sign out the same day. But starting a war on false pretenses and botching it, authorizing torture, violating the Constitutional rights of citizens and trashing the international reputation of the United States? No wonder the Nobel committee gave the peace prize to Obama for not being Bush.

Posted by: T-Rex on December 28, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Thank you for this post. I saw her yesterday and was SO incensed I wrote it down AND contacted CNN. It's crap. And when you call CNN on it they say 'it is not their job to decide who the biggest liar is'...HELLO??? Is it your job to be JOURNALISTS? Honestly.

Posted by: SYSPROG on December 28, 2009 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Gulag: "Uhm, Steve, who's arguing that he wasn't? The question is, was he "one of," or the biggest?"

I suspect that the roughly 20% of folks who still approved of him at the end of his presidency would still make an argument for him not being terrible, all evidence aside.

Posted by: Kris on December 28, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

If the right wing spin on the GWB administration were to survive and prosper as accepted history through the generations that would be sufficiently damning of a fatally flawed humanity as to warrant calling for its extermination.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on December 28, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

GHW Bush started cleaning up the mess he and Reagan made, and Clinton kept up the good work. Can we give credit to a sane Republican when we see one? Not like there are a lot of them out there.

Posted by: Hari on December 28, 2009 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

I know. It's the same 20% who think the earth is flat, we faked the moon landing, Reagan was the bestest President ever, and that it was J. R. Ewing who shot JFK.

Where does pardoning all of the "Iran-Contra" fixers fit into cleaning up his and Reagan's mess?

Posted by: c u n d gulag on December 28, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

This is probably a piller of the Bush Legacy Whitewash Project. Dana Perino pushes very similar talking points. For the SAKE of the LEGACY, Bush was sworn into office in January 2002.

And what's wrong with you? He WAS NOT President on Aug 6, 2001 when the PDB informed (not) him that 'BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO STRIKE IN U.S."

Posted by: bcinaz on December 28, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

What's funny to me is that she uses the 5% unemployment (was really 5.7%) which was actually about a point higher than what it was when Dubya entered office - and still went higher from there. The Rs do this all the time. They take Clinton's historically low unemployment, increase it a bit and claim credit for it still being relatively low even though it's worse than what they inherited.
Hey Mary - it's the DIRECTION unemployment is headed. She's well aware of this, of course. It's up to the "journalists" to call her on it on the spot.

Posted by: BD on December 28, 2009 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

There is a good argument to be made that it is ultimately impossible to make us completely safe from terrorist attacks. Europe and Israel have struggled with this and while there are a number of steps that can be taken to make the public safer, there are too many points of vulnerability and too many different ways to carry out an attack for you to anticipate all of them. As such, I have always been reluctant to blame Bush for the success of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

That said, there is no possible rationale by which Bush can be absolved for the responsibility for the most successful terrorist attack in U.S. history but Obama can be held to have failed for not doing more to prevent last week's failed attack.unsuccessful incident.

Posted by: tanstaafl on December 28, 2009 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK


when reagan had 10% + unemployment 2-years into his first term...

the rate was due to jimmy carter..

when obama has 10% + unemployment 9-months into his term..

its obama's fault..


Posted by: mr. irony on December 28, 2009 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK



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