Political Animal


November 02, 2012 12:29 PM Bush On the Ballot—Now More Than Ever

By Ed Kilgore

It’s probably safe to say no publication has more consistently promoted the idea that “George W. Bush is on the ballot” in 2012 than the Washington Monthly. And that goes beyond the usual issue of the Bush administration’s responsibility for the Great Recession. We’ve argued that the 2012 campaign closely resembles the 2000 precedent in the specific policies and agendas of the GOP nominees, and the likely trajectory of the country if Romney wins. That’s why we’ve published and promoted the e-book, Elephant in the Room: Washington in the Bush Years. We’ve been here before.

But as election day approaches, there’s a final parallel that’s worth underlining: Romney is emulating Bush’s mendacious claim to be a “uniter not a divider,” and far more moderate than his party. As Paul Glastris reminds readers in the Editor’s Note in the upcoming November/December issue of the magazine (a sneak preview is available here), W. relied a lot on misleading voters about his relationship with his party:

One early summer day in 2000 I was summoned to the Oval Office along with several other White House staffers to get instructions from President Bill Clinton on what he wanted to say in his upcoming speech at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, a speech I was assigned to cowrite. But the president was in political strategist mode that day, and in the midst of downloading his thoughts on the speech he launched into a long soliloquy about the dynamics of the presidential contest and the nature of the man Al Gore was up against, Texas Governor George W. Bush. “Let me tell you something,” he said at one point. “Bush is a lot more conservative than people realize.”

The Big Dog certainly got that right, and the scary but unmistakable thing is that the Republican Party which Mitt Romney is trying to distance himself from at the last minute (rhetorically, though not substantively in any major way) is if anything considerably more conservative than it was in 2000. And if there’s any actual split between Romney and his party, it will only produce incompetent and dystfunctional government, as it often did when W. tried to exhibit “compassion” in order to appeal to swing constituencies:

The ideological contradictions unleashed within the GOP during those years have only grown. We see it in the increasingly stormy and dysfunctional relationship between the corporate and Tea Party wings of the party, in the freak show that was the 2012 GOP primary, and in the bottomless, robotic mendacity of the Mitt Romney campaign.

Yep, we’ve heard it all before. And as someone who was on to Bush’s game in 2000, and thinks he won (or to put it more accurately, succeeded in being inaugurated) because Democrats let him become the candidate of “safe change,” the possibility that Romney will succeed in the exact same scam is maddening.

Every voter should think about ol’ W. when they go to vote this year, and ask themselves: “Do we want to go back down that road again?”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on November 02, 2012 12:52 PM:

    I just don't understand a lot of the American people. No - yes, I do.
    They are either stupid, ignorant, and/or have short memories.

    Since 1968, we've had 28 years of Big Unpaid-for Government - FROM THE REPUBICANS!!!

    And 16 years of Effective, Paid-for Government - from the Democrats.

    And yet, the meme persists that the Democrats tax and spend, while the Republicans are the better stewards of the economy, and are better on national security (LOL!!!).

    Actually, maybe it's not the people - it's the MSM. They are the stupid, ignorant ones, with short memories.
    Of course, they get paid to be that way.

    I'm a Liberal and a Democrat.
    I want effective paid-for government from the Democrats, not-unpaid for big government from the Republicans.

    Democrats suck at messaging.

  • boatboy_srq on November 02, 2012 1:19 PM:

    [Mitt Romney] + [brainstem] + [convictions] = [George W Bush]
    ([Mitt Romney] + [brainstem] + [convictions]) + ([Paul Ryan] + [conscience] + [mercy]) = [George W Bush] + [Dick Cheney]

    This, by the GOTea, is improvement?

    Captcha: rgingcno means. We all know what Romney the gringo means - it's what he actually says that's so off.

  • Bokonon on November 02, 2012 1:39 PM:

    As of Romney's speech earlier today, I think that the GOP's official policy is now "give our Congressional branch what they want, and nobody gets hurt."

    One thing the last several years has shown is that the permanent agenda of the GOP will not bend to election results. And regardless of what happens at the ballots next week, the GOP will have enough power in Congress to continue taking hostages.

    So ... we will be going back down that road again. In a forced march. Over and over again. Whether it is popular or not.

  • schtick on November 02, 2012 2:11 PM:

    Every single time Willard (and a few others) start talking about working across the aisle, I just want to scream: "Get off the table, Mabel, we've seen your routine before!"

  • AMS on November 02, 2012 2:19 PM:

    Part of the Moderate Mitt strategy was his disavowal of the 47% video. How has he been able to run away from it with so little pushback? He was caught on tape saying sniffily that he would never be able to convince nearly half of the people he hopes to govern to take personal responsibility and care for their lives. There's simply no way to spin that into a rumination on electoral strategy, as Romney claims. Yet, with a one-day series of "oh, I didn't mean it" TV appearances, it seems to be forgotten.

    I fault the MSM in part (they were so lost in admiration of Romney's first debate performance at the time of his walkback that they didn't focus on anything else), but I also suspect that the 47% video is one reason Romney has avoided answering reporter's questions for the last three and a half weeks. The logical question--"were you lying then or are you lying now?"--is one to which he can't possibly have a satisfactory answer.

  • T2 on November 02, 2012 3:01 PM:

    once the Media let MItt skate on his tax returns, while fellow Mormon Harry Reid was screaming far and wide "He's Hiding Something"...it was clear that Romney would get a pass on most everything, and he has. Clouded by a "both sides do it" National Media, he's been allowed to lie, be found lying, and repeat the same lie, and the Media digs up some statement Obama made 20 years ago and equates the two somehow.
    If he becomes President, I'm sure he'll expect the same treatment. And he'll get it.

  • Zorro on November 02, 2012 3:47 PM:

    And as someone who was on to Bush’s game in 2000, and thinks he won (or to put it more accurately, succeeded in being inaugurated) because Democrats let him become the candidate of “safe change,” the probability that Romney will succeed in the exact same scam is maddening.

    Fixed that for ya.


  • Epicurus on November 02, 2012 4:29 PM:

    A very wise man once said something along the lines of "You can fool all the people some of the time..." Unfortunately, the GOP has taken this as their mantra. Say anything, tell any lies, all in service of your goals. It's absolutely disgusting and unbelievable that so many otherwise smart, rational people are thinking about wasting their vote on the most mendacious candidate for President EVAHR. I do hope and pray that Mr. Obama is re-elected on Tuesday; I hold out no hopes that the GOP House and the minority in the Senate will continue to obstruct his programs and policies. On the other hand, I've heard you can't fool all the people all the time...we shall see.