The problem with short memories

THE PROBLEM WITH SHORT MEMORIES…. Given all the public confusion, it’s sometimes surprising President Obama’s approval rating isn’t lower. Take this tidbit from the latest Pew Research report.

Only about a third of Americans (34%) know that the government’s bailout of banks and financial institutions was enacted under the Bush administration. Nearly half (47%) incorrectly say that the Troubled Asset Relief Program — widely known as TARP — was signed into law by President Obama.

I guess the frequent Republican complaints about “bailouts” led much of the public to not only forget what year TARP passed, but also forget who supported it.

For the record, the financial industry bailout passed in October 2008. It was requested by a conservative Republican administration (George W. Bush and Dick Cheney). It was enthusiastically endorsed by the House Republican leadership (John Boehner, Eric Cantor, and Roy Blunt), the Senate Republican leadership (Mitch McConnell and Jon Kyl), both members of the Republican presidential ticket (John McCain and Sarah Palin), and assorted, high-profile conservative voices (Mitt Romney and Glenn Beck).

At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot less than 34% of Americans knew this, too.

Is it any wonder Republican attack ads routinely try to exploit public confusion? The GOP assumes voters have short memories, and under the circumstances, that’s not a bad assumption.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.