In the immediate hangover of the Bush/Cheney administration, I used to ask people, “What was one thing Bush got right?”
Some argued that the war in Afghanistan — up until bin Laden was allowed to escape at Tora Bora — made sense. Others said a Medicare prescription drug benefit was necessary — it just should have been funded and designed to negotiate for the best prices. A few said that Bush accidentally made it possible for President Obama and huge Democratic majorities to end the Iraq War, pass health care reform, end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell…
The best answer I heard praised the work Bush led to fight poverty and AIDS in Africa as the one “right” thing he did. Last year, President Clinton mentioned this work fondly, becoming the only primetime speaker at either of last year’s national conventions to openly praise W.
The question of what Republicans have gotten right since Bush left office is an even bigger brainteaser. It’s even harder than trying to figure out where the periods go in one of Sarah Palin’s sentences.
The GOP was dead wrong in its opposition to the stimulus, which anyone with even a trace of honesty in their being has to admit stopped our layoff crisis and placed a bottom from which our slow economy began. Dead wrong in asserting that the actions the president and the Fed took to save jobs would lead to hyperinflation. Dead wrong in pushing the cuts on the state and local level that killed good jobs when we needed them most.
And they created their own reality where a president who slowed the growth of government spending to its lowest point in nearly 50 years and cut the deficit at the fastest pace since World World II was charged with being a big spender.
The only thing Republicans did get right was strategic. In the 2010 midterm elections, they successfully used dark money to blame President Obama for the trillion-dollar deficit and economy he inherited. They then took the opportunity that landslide in the House and state houses gave them to redraw the congressional map in a way that created a majority that lasts even as they received a million fewer votes than Democrats.
It wasn’t until after the 2012 election that most people recognized how the GOP had gamed the system. But Republicans were well aware of what Karl Rove and their other practitioners of the dark arts had done. It gave them the confidence to vote to privatize Social Security and Medicare while gutting Medicaid and education, extremely unpopular stands.
In 2011, Republicans in Michigan – a blue state that elected huge Republican majorities in 2010 – explored using their redistricted map to ensure Mitt Romney would get a majority of the state’s 14 electoral votes.
Why didn’t they do it? Michigan state rep Pete Lund said, “There were people convinced Romney was going to win and this might take [electoral] votes from him.”
They thought Romney was going to win Michigan, which he lost by 9.5 percent – or they would have cheated.