ROVE’S INTEREST IN AN ‘HONEST APPRAISAL’…. When Karl Rove helped run the White House, he accepted certain beliefs as truths. He believed, for example, turning massive surpluses into massive deficits was entirely reasonable. He believed reckless tax cuts for the already rich were an example of responsible governing. He believed expanding the size of government, adding to entitlements, increasing the federal role in education, and putting it all on future generations’ tab, was perfectly sensible. He believed fiscal responsibility was a punch-line.
And now that Karl Rove is outside the White House, he believes he’s entitled to complain about deficits from his perch in the media establishment.
What seems to concern the president is not the problem runaway spending poses for taxpayers and the economy. Rather, what bothers him is the political problem it poses for Democrats.
Last year, Mr. Obama made fiscal restraint a constant theme of his presidential campaign. “Washington will have to tighten its belt and put off spending,” he said back then, while pledging to “go through the federal budget, line by line, ending programs that we don’t need.” Voters found this fiscal conservatism reassuring.
However, since taking office Mr. Obama pushed through a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the child health program known as S-chip, a $410 billion omnibus appropriations spending bill, and an $80 billion car company bailout. He also pushed a $821 billion cap-and-trade bill through the House and is now urging Congress to pass a nearly $1 trillion health-care bill.
Rove wants to see an “honest appraisal” of where we are. Good idea. The stimulus was necessary because Rove’s old boss left the president an economy on the verge of wholesale collapse. S-CHIP expansion was necessary because Rove’s old boss rejected a bipartisan measure to help low-income children go to the doctor. Rescuing the auto industry was necessary because it was a continuation of Rove’s old boss’ policy and the nation couldn’t afford to cut off American manufacturing at the knees at the height of the recession. Cap and trade, Rove neglected to mention, wouldn’t add to the deficit, and is necessary because Rove’s old boss ignored the climate crisis for eight years. The health care reform bill would cut the deficit significantly, and is necessary because Rove’s old boss fiddled while the dysfunctional health care system got worse.
That’s an “honest appraisal.”
Rove added, “When Mr. Obama was sworn into office the federal deficit for this year stood at $422 billion. At the end of October, it stood at $1.42 trillion.”
Rove may not be smart enough to understand this, so I’ll try to make the explanation simple for him.
The bulk of the $1.42 trillion deficit has nothing to do with the Obama administration’s policies. The Center for American Progress’ Michael Ettlinger and Michael Linden recently explained, “The policies of the Bush administration, which included tax cuts during a time of war and a floundering economy, are clearly the primary source of the current deficits.” Specifically, 40% of the fiscal deterioration we’re seeing — the single largest contributing factor — can be attributed to Bush policies. Another 12% comes from Bush’s financial rescues, while 20% are the result of the economic crisis Bush handed off to his successor. What’s President Obama’s share? Just 16% of the total, most of which is the result of new spending that was necessary to prevent a depression.
There are some pretty sleazy pundits in the media, but when it comes to combining dishonesty, ignorance, hypocrisy, and misguided chutzpah, few are quite as offensive as the man George W. Bush used to call “Turd Blossom.”
Andrew Sullivan added earlier:
I remember very vividly a heated argument with Karl Rove over eight years ago in which I worried about spending and deficits. “Deficits don’t matter!” Rove kept repeating in that nasal world-weary tone he has. After a bit, I said, “What do you mean, deficits don’t matter? Don’t you remember the 1990s?” “No, no, no, no, Andrew,” he replied. “What I mean is that people don’t vote on deficits. That’s why they don’t matter.”
I learned then that nothing beyond short term politics motivates Rove. Nothing. And I also learned: this fathomless cynicism is not just repulsive, it’s invariably wrong. People sure did vote on deficits in 1992. And one small reason Obama won in 2008 is because many Independents and Republicans couldn’t trust the GOP to stop spending and borrowing us into oblivion in an era of economic growth.
Now, Rove — whose shamelessness is only matched by his incompetence — is writing a deficit hawk column for the WSJ…. What Rove requires is what Palin requires: total amnesia of what they just said or did.
Update: Joe Klein added: “It’s not surprising that the blinkered extremists of the Wall Street Journal editorial page would print this drivel — any other mainstream op-ed page would require Rove to acknowledge, in passing, at least, his complicity in the current mess — but it remains a scandal, nonetheless, and the sheer craven audacity of it needs to be pointed out, from time to time.”