The President's Pottery Barn Economy

Following the release of Bob Woodward’s book Plan of Attack (and during the worst months of the War in Iraq) the media gleefully seized on a remark used by Colin Powell to warn President Bush about the ultimate consequences of the invasion’s failure:

‘You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,’ he told the president. ‘You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.’ Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.

This snappy riposte has disappeared from the discussion of that war in the wake of General Petreus’ successful surge strategy. However, I think it’s time to bring the phrase back as a useful term to describe both the responsibility and consequences that should attach to the Obama administration’s handling of the economy.

Last 4th of July weekend Vice President Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos:

“The truth is, we and everyone else misread the economy,” Biden told me during our exclusive “This Week” interview in Iraq.

Biden acknowledged administration officials were too optimistic earlier this year when they predicted the unemployment rate would peak at 8 percent as part of their effort to sell the stimulus package.

Too optimistic? And who is this “everyone else [who] misread the economy”? It’s an important question because this is what Biden told Stephanopoulos last December 19, 2008:

Vice President-Elect Joe Biden said the U.S. economy is in danger of “absolutely tanking” and will need a second stimulus package in the $600-billion to $700-billion range.

“The economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in,” Biden told me during an exclusive interview — his first since becoming vice president-elect– to air this Sunday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

As Jennifer Rubin notes, there are two problems at work here:

…But worse than the policy problem [failed stimulus] is the credibility problem. As both Herbert and Boehner point out, the administration has resorted to lying. It is not that the president and his advisors failed to comprehend the magnitude of the economic crisis. It is that they got the solution wrong, and now they refuse to admit the mistake. It may not be long before the Washington press corps start hounding Obama, as they did George W. Bush, to admit “error.”

It’s obvious by Biden’s own words above that the Obama administartion knew exactly how bad the problem was in 2008. They simply prescribed the wrong solution and voters now know it. Vice President Biden is simply betting no one remembers what he said six months ago. It is our pleasure to remind the Vice President and his boss that they too must abide by pottery barn rules: They broke the economy and now they own it.

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