Pence was blind, now sees?

PENCE WAS BLIND, NOW SEES?…. At a DNC event in Atlanta yesterday, President Obama enjoyed mocking Republicans for their lack of ideas, and their ongoing fealty to the Bush/Cheney agenda that already failed. “They have not come up with a single, solitary, new idea to address the challenges of the American people,” the president said. “They don’t have a single idea that’s different from George Bush’s ideas — not one. Instead, they’re betting on amnesia.”

On MSNBC this morning, Joe Scarborough asked House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) to tell viewers the ways in the current GOP offers an agenda that is “different from the vision that George W. Bush” offered. Here’s Pence’s reply in its entirety:

“Well, uh, look, Joe, you’ve known me for a lot of years, and uh, I, I will always hold the view that history will record that the American people did away with a tax-and-spend government, and then under the big-government-Republicanism of the Bush years, we were a tax-cut-and-spend government, by the time Bush [left] office.

“The vision for Republicans going forward is to produce pro-growth tax policies that will get this economy moving again. But to really practice what we preach about fiscal discipline and entitlement reform. I mean, the truth is, we grew government, we grew deficits under the Bush administration. You know I fought against those things vigorously, Joe, as you did on the airwaves.

“It’s gotta be different, and we can have pro-growth tax relief going forward but we’ve got to get back to basic spending discipline and the principles of limited government.”

Scarborough seemed impressed. He shouldn’t have been.

In effect, Pence’s pitch is straightforward: Republicans in this decade will be exactly like Bush/Cheney, except this time, they’ll cut spending. For the right that’s prepared to throw Bush under the bus, I suppose this sounds vaguely compelling. (Two years ago, a leading McCain campaign surrogate was asked on CNN to name one area where McCain would be different from Bush. He couldn’t point to anything.)

But for those who take substance seriously, there are two pertinent questions. The first is, cut what, exactly? It’s the shallowest talking point in the GOP arsenal — vote for us and we’ll cut spending. But until Pence and his cohorts are prepared to explain to the public what will get cut, how much, and at what cost, it’s an argument with all the sophistication of a bumper sticker.

The second is, was Mike Pence sleeping through the Bush/Cheney years? Pence took office after the 2002 midterms, and proceeded to vote with the Bush/Cheney agenda the vast majority of the time. I don’t recall him complaining about his own party pursuing a misguided tax-cut-and-spend approach to government.

It seems awfully convenient now, in 2010, for Pence to complain about “the big-government-Republicanism of the Bush years,” when it was Pence who was voting for the Bush agenda at the time.

Ben Armbruster added that “the GOP agenda out of the Republican Study Committee — of which Pence is a member — is a mirror image of the Bush years.” Imagine that.