Bush's Ghost

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, October 8, 2008; 11:38 AM

Maybe they should have made a place for President Bush at last night's debate, so that he could respond to all the gibes -- from both sides.

Democratic candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate John McCain each summoned Bush repeatedly. Obama savaged the Bush legacy and argued that a McCain presidency would be de facto third Bush term. McCain, meanwhile, urgently tried to create a sense of distance from his party's profoundly unpopular leader.

From the transcript, here is Obama on the current economic crisis: "I believe this is a final verdict on the failed economic policies of the last eight years, strongly promoted by President Bush and supported by Sen. McCain, that essentially said that we should strip away regulations, consumer protections, let the market run wild, and prosperity would rain down on all of us."

Here's McCain on his proposal that the government buy up all the country's bad home mortgages: "[I]t's my proposal, it's not Sen. Obama's proposal, it's not President Bush's proposal."

Obama on how we got here: "I think it's important just to remember a little bit of history. When George Bush came into office, we had surpluses. And now we have half-a-trillion-dollar deficit annually. When George Bush came into office, our debt -- national debt was around $5 trillion. It's now over $10 trillion. We've almost doubled it. And so while it's true that nobody's completely innocent here, we have had over the last eight years the biggest increases in deficit spending and national debt in our history. And Sen. McCain voted for four out of five of those George Bush budgets."

Obama on the idea of shared national sacrifice: "[After 9/11,] President Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that was missed was, when he spoke to the American people, he said, 'Go out and shop.' That wasn't the kind of call to service that I think the American people were looking for."

McCain on climate change: "[W]hen we have an issue that we may hand our children and our grandchildren a damaged planet, I have disagreed strongly with the Bush administration on this issue."

McCain on bucking the president: "[There] was an energy bill on the floor of the Senate loaded down with goodies, billions for the oil companies, and it was sponsored by Bush and Cheney. You know who voted for it? You might never know. That one. You know who voted against it? Me."

Obama on the constraints of America's ability to act as a peacemaker: "[T]he strains that have been placed on our alliances around the world and the respect that's been diminished over the last eight years has constrained us being able to act on something like the genocide in Darfur, because we don't have the resources or the allies to do everything that we should be doing. That's going to change when I'm president, but we can't change it unless we fundamentally change Sen. McCain's and George Bush's foreign policy. It has not worked for America."

And Obama on talking to our enemies: "When President Bush decided we're not going to talk to Iran, we're not going to talk to North Korea, you know what happened? Iran went from zero centrifuges to develop nuclear weapons to 4,000. North Korea quadrupled its nuclear capability."

Retro Spin Watch

Al Kamen writes in The Washington Post that the Bush administration is apparently engaged in a government-wide effort at retrospective spin on its way out the door: "[A]n e-mail went out last week to government agencies to get working on a project to lay out 'THE BUSH RECORD.' It came with a handy 'rollout strategy.' . . .

"'Please provide a one or two paragraph summary,' the e-mail instructs, 'on the overarching communications strategy for your Department. This section should also list any broad, overarching products you plan to produce (e.g., a document listing your Department's major accomplishments over the past eight years, a video of Department successes, etc.).'

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