IT WAS LIKE THIS WHEN HE GOT HERE…. According to Jeb Bush, President Obama is supposed to leave George W. Bush aloooooone. From the former Florida governor’s interview with Sean Hannity:
“If I had one humble criticism of President Obama, it would be to stop this notion of somehow framing everything in the context of ‘Everything was bad before I got here’ and focus on his duties, which we all want him to succeed. But constantly pushing down the previous president to make yourself look good I think is a bad thing.”
I feel like we hear this a lot, both from the president’s Republican detractors and from political reporters. Obama is supposed to address the multitude of crises on his desk, but he isn’t supposed to talk about how those crises began. He should, the argument goes, fix the problems, not address how they became problems in the first place.
The argument is already pretty tiresome. Obama really did inherit an economic crisis, an abysmal job market, a budget mess, a failing financial industry, a collapsing U.S. auto industry, global warming, an absurd health care system, an equally absurd national energy framework, two costly wars, a pessimistic electorate, and a nation that had lost much of its global prestige. It’s hardly unusual to think the White House would want Americans to realize that Obama and his team are not to blame for these crises, and should be judged on their ability to make improvements on this baseline.
To hear the former president’s brother tell it, the important thing is that George W. Bush be freed of accountability and responsibility for his devastating failures. But that’s not only unrealistic, it doesn’t even make sense. If Obama is accurately acknowledging the mess(es) he inherited — and he is — of course he’s justified in framing his work in this context.
By what rationale is the president not supposed to talk about where we’ve been, while addressing where we’re going?
To reiterate a point from a month ago, the typical Obama speech starts by acknowledging a problem, followed by some talk about how the problem was created, followed by a description of what he’d like to do about it. If Obama reminded audiences that the disaster(s) he inherited aren’t his fault, and that’s all he did — dwell on the past, fail to present solutions — it would be a problem. But that’s clearly not the case.
Jeb wants to stick up for his brother; I get that. And Jeb, as a conservative Republican, doesn’t care for Obama’s agenda. I get that, too. But the president is “focusing on his duties.” To argue otherwise is silly.