The Choice

As I write this, I’m listening (via Steve Benen) to the president’s speech in Ohio today, for which a transcript it appears to be unavailable. I like what I’m hearing, not only because it frames the election as a choice between two stark, fundamentally different visions of what the country needs economically, but because it implicitly challenges Republicans to explain exactly what they are proposing now that Bush and company didn’t propose during the ‘oughts.

It’s amazing to me that Republicans have managed to avoid association with the Bush economic record by repeatedly attacking Bush for not doing even more of the things that wrecked the economy. Bush didn’t deregulate enough. Bush didn’t cut taxes enough. Bush didn’t shred the social safety net enough. Bush didn’t ratchet down nondefense discretionary spending that provides public sector jobs and private-sector contracts enough. These are the aspects of Bush’s record that lead today’s Republicans to say he “betrayed conservative principles;” these are the “mistakes” they would correct.

No, Obama hasn’t come up with some brilliant new slogan or sound-bite. But he has, finally, begun the hard but necessary task of explaining that conservative ideology, whether it’s promoted by George W. Bush or Mitt Romney, is inherently bad for middle-class economic prospects. I particularly like his adoption of Bill Clinton’s line that Romney’s economic policies are Bush’s policies “on steroids.” Maybe if he repeats that a few hundred times, Team Mitt will finally have to explain exactly how its policies differ from those of Bush, and admit that it’s mainly a matter of even more regressive taxes and an assault on the New Deal and Great Society legacy that Bush could only dream about.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.