Matalin’s alternate universe

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.