I didn’t get to watch last night’s SOTU speech live. After reading the transcript, I was obviously struck (along with virtually everyone else) by the sheer number of times President Obama felt compelled to note how bad things were “before I walked in the door” — obviously implying that Bush Administration policies had either created or perpetuated all the unfortunate circumstances that the fickle finger of fate handed him.
In fact, listening to the rhetorical flourishes of the Democrats for the past six years, you’d think that George W. Bush waltzed into the White House in the midst of the greatest Camelot era since … well, Camelot itself, with everything handed to him on a silver platter by Bill Clinton. And then the reckless, irresponsible, idiot frat boy Bush blew it all by giving money to the rich, needlessly bogging us down in two wars, and destroying the image of America around the world.
Perhaps it’s time for a reality check for our liberal friends. 2001 was not a cakewalk, by any stretch of the imagination. The passage of time and the years of Bush Administration demagoguery by the Democrats have partially erased the seriousness of the problems that we faced during the first two years of President Bush’s first term. We tend to forget the 1998 – 2000 tech market bubble, and the hundreds of billions of dollars lost in its subsequent collapse in 2001. This was the first serious, permanent market meltdown in decades — the NASDAQ closed over 5000 points in March 2000; by the end of 2002 it had lost 78% of its value. Today it sits at 2200, and has never fully recovered.
After the 9/11 attack, the New York-based stock exchanges remained closed for a week, and the week after they re-opened, the Dow Jones lost 1369 points and over $1.2 trillion dollars, still the single largest one-week loss in history. And right on the heels of 9/11 came the massive corporate accounting scandals of Enron, WorldCom, Global Crossing, etc. NYT columnist (and former Enron adviser) Paul Krugman famously predicted that Enron would end up having a bigger impact on America than the 9/11 attacks.
Count ’em — that’s three major economic setbacks occurring during the first two years of the Bush Administration. Two of those setbacks (the tech bubble and Enron) could have been directly traced back to decisions by the Clinton-appointed heads of the IRS (refusal to investigate why Enron claimed to owe zero corporate income taxes while raking in record profits) and the SEC (allowing risky tech start-ups with no history of earnings to be publicly traded).
On top of that, there was the tepid US response to continually escalating acts of terror, beginning with the first World Trade Center bombing attempt and culminating with the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. During the 1990’s we erected a “wall of separation” between the Justice Department, FBI, and CIA that prevented us from effectively sharing information about possible terror threats. And we bungled several attempts to either apprehend or eliminate Osama Bin Laden both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
But President Bush didn’t point fingers. Here is the entire text of President Bush’s first SOTU speech, delivered on January 29, 2002. You’ll note how much shorter President Bush’s speech was than last night’s speech by President Obama. And you’ll also notice that there is not a single inference to “failed policies of the past,” “mistakes of the last decade,” or some similar attempt to blame the challenges of 2001 – 2002 on Bill Clinton.
Not that there wasn’t plenty of opportunity.
Barack Obama can joke about his Messiah image, and confess that no one in his Administration really believed that they would “usher in peace and harmony” when they took control of the White House. But the truth is, it was the President who promised openness and transparency and reform, and then gave free rein to the corrupt, obstructionist Democrat leadership in Congress. It was the President who dismissed Republicans by telling them “I won.” President Obama says it’s time to end the “perpetual campaign.” If he wants to be taken seriously as a leader (as opposed to an amateur political hack from Chicago) then accepting responsibility for the things that have occurred solely on his watch — the mind-boggling deficit spending, the incomprehensible Democrat health care reform bill, the government take-over of banks and car companies, and the bungled bombing attempt aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253 — would be a good place for him to start.