Yesterday, Mitt Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom rolled out a new argument: The Bush presidency bears none of the blame at all for the economic travails of the last three years; it’s all on Obama; the current President deserves not an iota of credit for the job gains that have occurred on his watch.
Fehrnstrom noted that the economy’s struggle throughout 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.” Fehronstrom added: “This president cannot take credit for any success on the jobs front. None at all.”
This prompted a fun thought experiment from Steve Benen, who imagines Romney and Fehrnstrom making that case about F.D.R.’s first term, while pretending that a crisis of the magnitude of the Great Depression never happened:
as far as the Romney campaign is concerned, the Bush/Cheney era has nothing to do with our current economic conditions. The economy is struggling, and it’s entirely the fault of the president who inherited the worst crisis since the Great Depression.
I can only imagine Romney and Fehrnstrom barnstorming the country in 1936. “Look at all of these closed factories! Look at the 17% unemployment rate! Look at the widespread poverty and long bread lines! Clearly, Roosevelt failed and the New Deal was a disaster.”
Of course, 76 years ago, very few Americans found this perspective persuasive, but that was before modern media and super PACs could manage to get wide swaths of the country to believe strange things.
I’d only add that the Romney campaign has been making variations of this argument for months on end now, and it continues to generate virtually no skepticism in the press.
Romney and his supporters continue to argue that we know Obama’s policies made things worse because there’s been a net job loss during his presidency. But this factors in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in the aftermath of the meltdown, before those policies went into effect. They continue making this argument in every conceivable forum, and no one outside of a few pointy-headed fact-checkers raises an eyebrow.
Fehrnstrom’s latest takes this to a new extreme, and illustrates yet again (yes, I’m repeating myself here) that the Romney campaign’s whole argument is premised on the hope that the American public has developed mass amnesia about the scale of the mess Obama inherited.
And no, that doesn’t constitute making excuses for Obama: There’s no quibbling with the fact that his policies have not created jobs at the pace we would have hoped. But that doesn’t make Romney’s argument any less absurd. And it doesn’t excuse the fact that there has been no sustained media focus to speak of on the broader series of claims Romney has been making — and the larger argument they amount to — even though they are absolutely central to his whole candidacy.
By the way: Has anyone even asked Romney what he would have done if he had been president in January of 2009? I’m pretty sure no one has.