Excusing Bush’s damaging policies to give yourself a free pass for supporting them

George W. BushOne of the more common traits in modern American conservatism is the tendency to try to escape responsibility by generating specious arguments about scapegoating. Rather than saying flat out that X isn’t responsible for Y, the argument has become that blaming X for Y is just covering for Z, who is really responsible.

It’s ironic that the person Z usually represents – President Barack Obama – has used that strategy to his own benefit by insisting that we “look forward, not backward” when it comes to crimes committed by the Bush administration and Wall Street, but not for anyone else like courageous whistle blowers who reveal government wrongdoing and ordinary citizens committing relatively minor crimes.

This tactic is commonly used to let George W. Bush off the hook for policies he strongly advocated for and encouraged Congress to enact, because the negative consequences of those policies either harmed the country or made Bush and the Republican Party look bad in retrospect.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the economy and Bush’s tax cuts.

Complaints that liberals are saying that the economy is “Bush’s fault” aren’t entirely inaccurate. Liberals do largely blame the Bush administration for the economy, but public polling has shown that a majority of Americans share that view. While the public is disappointed with the way the Obama administration has handled the recovery, polls as recent as a few days ago show that most Americans blame George W. Bush and Congress for today’s economic problems.

That finding has been repeatedly substantiated over the past several years, even by Fox News.

The budget crippling tax cuts aren’t “Bush’s fault” so much as they were the centerpiece of his 2000 campaign. Once elected, the administration gloated over its huge victory in keeping its campaign promise to pass a “sweeping tax cut”. That first round of cuts passed a House and Senate controlled by the Republican Party.

What conservatives are now running away from and desperately trying to erase from Bush’s legacy was a huge victory worth bragging about in 2001, when the economy was relatively stable and the government had just run a couple of budget surpluses in previous years.

Then they did it again in 2003, which the press described like this:

The House of Representatives and the Senate both approved the 10-year plan, which the White House says is aimed at stimulating the flagging US economy.

The plan has been controversial, since many economists argue it will increase the US deficit and therefore undermine the dollar, without necessarily benefiting many Americans.

In the Senate, the casting vote of Vice-President Dick Cheney was required to get the scheme passed.

Cheney had to cast a tie-breaking vote because Democrats, believing the country couldn’t afford such a large tax cut without an offset in spending cuts, filibustered the legislation in the Senate. Republicans used reconciliation (which they’d later call an unconstitutional “nuclear option” when Democrats used it to pass health care reform) to pass those cuts which reduced the votes necessary to pass the cuts to 51.

Once again, Republicans were all on the side of passing the cuts they are now running away from. And just as critics predicted, the Bush tax cuts have added $1.7 trillion in debt since 2001 and are projected to add another $5.4 trillion over the next decade if they are renewed.

While the Obama administration shares some blame for temporarily renewing those cuts last year even tough the GOP demanded they be passed permanently, the cuts wouldn’t exist if not for President Bush’s campaign promises and the extremely hard work the Republican Party did in 2001 and 2003 to pass them over strong objections from Democrats. Nor is it certain those cuts will be renewed again for next year, making Obama’s contribution small by comparison.

The constant mocking calls for Bush to be impeached because he’s serving a third term – implying that people are blaming everything that’s happened in the past few years on him – seems tone deaf, considering that significant evidence exists that George W. Bush didn’t just commit serious federal crimes and constitutional violations, but actual war crimes.

All of this serves to sweep under the rug the principal instigator of so many of America’s problems and embarrassments over the years specifically to protect, defend, and excuse the people who cheered on those actions while they were still happening. It’s not about excusing Bush himself, it’s about giving a free pass to all the people that supported him and his ugly and harmful policies when he campaigned for President and then enacted them once in office with the help of a conservative Congress so compliant that it was often mocked as Bush’s personal rubber stamp.

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