July 2nd, 2010
02:44 PM ET
13 years ago

Blame game could 'boomerang' on Obama, strategist says

(CNN) - When signs of a severe economic downfall emerged more than two years ago, then-candidate Barack Obama was quick to point a finger at the man he hoped to replace.

Seventeen months into his administration, the message is often the same, and Republicans say it's time for him to drop the Bush bashing and take ownership of the problem.

"Nothing makes a president look weaker than pointing the finger at past administrations," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean. "By blaming somebody, it looks like you are playing politics and people just want jobs. They don't care about whose fault it is. Playing the blame game only boomerangs on yourself."

Obama repeated that message this week when talking about the still-sputtering economy, twice reminding those at a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin that he "inherited" the economic mess.

It's a familiar message from his days on the campaign trail when criticisms of President Bush were as common as policy proposals.

"History will not judge President Bush kindly for his failure to act in a way that could have prevented or alleviated this economic crisis," Obama said in March 2008 shortly after Bear Sterns' collapse, slamming Bush for failing to instill confidence in the American people.

Recent surveys suggest Obama isn't the only one holding the Bush administration and Republicans culpable.

Though the Democrats controlled Congress in the last two years of the Bush administration and have controlled both the White House and Congress for a year and a half - 41 percent of people surveyed in a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll said Republicans are responsible for the current economic problems.
Twenty-eight percent blamed Democrats, and 26 percent said both parties share responsibility.

According to a Washington Post/ABC poll conducted in April, 59 percent blamed Bush for the economy, compared with 25 percent who said Obama is at fault.

Job numbers released Friday got mixed reviews. The Labor Department reported the U.S. economy lost jobs for the first time this year, as modest hiring by businesses only partly offset the end of temporary Census Bureau jobs.

The unemployment rate fell to 9.5 percent from 9.7 percent in May. Economists had forecast it would climb to 9.8 percent, but the improvement was due mostly to discouraged job seekers not bothering to look for work and no longer being counted in the labor force.

Obama on Friday vowed to do everything in his power to create jobs, but the problem, according to economist Barry Bosworth, is there's not much more he can do.

"What can he do on the jobs other than sit around and wring his hands in agony?" he asked. "What could he do? That's the fundamental problem that we now face because it's a global problem."

Coming out of the Group of 20 conference, it was clear Obama's plans to continue stimulus spending weren't in step with other nations'.

"The whole world is going to turn toward fiscal restraint now, and he can either join it or he'll be an outlier," said Bosworth, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a former adviser to President Carter.

After the numbers came out, Obama said the country is headed in the right direction but added, "The recession dug us a hole of about 8 million jobs deep."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, echoed the positive indicators, noting that they followed "nearly a decade of failed Republican policies."

But Bosworth said it's not fair to put all of the blame on the past administration.

"They didn't cause that crisis. Lots of people contributed to it. I really do not think that you can blame administrative authorities for what happened. You can blame a lot of economists because we didn't see it coming in the exact way it did, but there were many dimensions," he said, pointing out that in retrospect it's easy to recognize there was an unbalanced economy.

Bosworth said Obama now needs to move away from blaming Bush because the worst of what happened wasn't Bush's fault.

"I don't see that we are looking at a crisis that was caused by the Bush administration, and I don't think we are looking at a crisis where the Obama administration has a fundamentally different response to the crisis," Bosworth added, noting that the Troubled Assets Relief Program was passed under the Bush administration.

Economic recovery has been slow, but there are signs of improvement. The stock market, while wobbly, has risen since the lows reached shortly after Obama took office, and the economy is growing again.

Democratic strategist Julian Epstein said Obama needs to make the argument that the economy is on the climb and the stimulus has worked.

"The message has got to be optimistic and positive. It can't simply be, 'I inherited a mess and I'm doing the best I can.' It's got to be, 'I inherited a mess, but we've turned the corner and things are getting a lot better,' " he said.

The White House needs to go on a confidence campaign and perhaps take a page from President Reagan's playbook, Epstein said.

"He really needs to spell out how we are coming back and it's morning in America again," he said.

Filed under: George W. Bush • President Obama
soundoff (66 Responses)

    Obama blames the GOP for being an obstacle to progress? Meanwhile
    he opposes sending troops to defend our border, opposes lifting the
    moratorium on oil drilling in the gulf, opposes renewing the Bush tax
    cuts, opposes education vouchers for poor kids, voter i. d. laws, and
    prosecuting the Black Panthers. I could go on and on. Progress to
    Obama is anything that pleases his reliable voting blocks of minorities,
    big labor, Sierra Club, etc. Let's face it, folks. B.O. means Big Opportunist.

    July 2, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. snow

    I guess nobummers quadrupling of the debt and deficit based on his massive spending which does not include the health care deformity will eventually be President Bush's fault as well. His salad the other night was not very good so I guess that is President Bush's fault as well because the farmers did not get enough rain so it is global warming which is just another crock of nobummers. nobummer is like a petulant child and it shows every time he is on tv which is way to much. Sick of turning on the tv and seeing him.

    July 2, 2010 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. NVa Native

    From a repub stratigist – why would anyone believe him?
    With his help Dubya/Dick hid under the "blame game" cloak for eight years while they lied to and deceived the American public as they undermined the effectivness of every level of government.
    D&D never accepted any of their mistakes or failures – and there were many – each month it seems.
    This is not a game as the repubs would have you think, Presidential failure as we have learned from the Bush years is a very dangerous thing for all generations of Americans.
    Thankfully we have a effective and hard working (now) President who will do everything to avoid and defeat failure, to bad we have a (republican) political party based on failure.

    July 2, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. JoshuaM

    Sure Bush may have helped America lose a few million jobs, but the last time I looked the voter's gave Dems the majority in Jan 2007. Besides from what I understand it is Congress that votes on the spending. So wasn't Obama part of the Democrat controlled Congress in 2007-8? Didn't he vote for the 07-08' spending bills? If Bush was an idiot for signing into law those bills, how dumb is Obama for voting for them.

    July 2, 2010 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  5. Pat

    Completely agree. I wish both parties would stop trying to point fingers at the other parties, especially during campaigns. If the only way you can make yourself look good is to point fingers at someone else, that is pretty weak in my opinion. They should get elected on their on merits and own platform. Everything anyone says is going to draw fire from someone else....moveon people, moveon politicians.

    July 2, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  6. dan smith

    Can anybody aay Barney Frank, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, they were the ones that allowed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to give out mortgage loans to people who couldn't possibly pay the loans back. Let this be a lesson for the future, no more free rides to people that are too lazy to work.

    July 2, 2010 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. billybob 'n NC

    It worked for the rethuglicans; they are still blaming Clinton.

    July 2, 2010 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  8. hobart

    Gee, a Republican strategist criticizing a Democratic President's strategy. How unexpected.

    July 2, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  9. Dave

    So what's the big deal? Obama is right. He inherited two wars and an econmic mess from the most inept administration in the history of this nation. It took eight years to get into this hole and we will not dig ourselves out in two years.

    July 2, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Marty, FL

    Please. This is sadly more Republican hypocrisy...

    The GOP constantly blamed President Clinton for over 8 years (and still do), yet President Bush somehow cannot be held accountable for his disastrous policies after just 1 1/2 years. Give me a break.

    July 2, 2010 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  11. James Evans

    Obama has been a huge dissapointment as a President because he hasn't done anything to lead. His version of leading is campaigning and that is more sophomoric than anything else.

    Obama has become like the wind up doll that says the same thing over and over again no matter what you ask it. Unless you are incredibly partisan and blame Bush and Republicans for everything and everything blindly there is and was plenty of blame to go around.

    Nobody did more to put us in this mess than those that opposed reforms of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Talk about risk on Wall Street is more of a smoke screen than anything else. If we didn't allow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to run amuck Wall Street wouldn't have been as exosed to the mortgage melt down and this would have all been a fraction of what it is.

    Then Mr. Greenspan and his mistakes didn't help.

    When a credit dependant nation has credit tighten in availability we have problems and when people live so far above their means as they have the last 15 or more years do to loose credit eventually those problems come home to roost.

    These were not the cause of any President.

    July 2, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  12. JT

    And for all of you who don't know Kristi Keck the author of this piece is a Republicon shill – much like a spy her job is to disseminate lies and false propaganda – to cloud the picture and push all the GOP's standard responses – no wonder news organizations are worthless nowadays – either you've got those with shows reading their news straight off the wire or you've got paid shills like this joker paid to write an article and post it at just the right time to keep the GOPs looney ideas on the table – no where on CNN are there investigative journalists – just those that try to manipulate the media's hold on the mindless.

    July 2, 2010 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  13. Stacey

    Gee, a republican strategist. Did we expect him to say anything else? The blame still goes to Bush/Cheney as far as I'm concerned. Go Obama!

    July 2, 2010 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. Ricky

    What's wrong with placing blame if it's accurate? Anyone who believes this mess was caused within the last 2 years is a moron and lacks any sort of understanding of basic economics. As usual, the 'pubbies aren't interested in things like "facts", which they seem to view with the same disdain that they have toward things like "science."

    Also, show me one republican who can explain how we can fix a deficit of this magnitude without increasing taxes in some way. Cuts will only go so far – that's a simple economic fact.

    July 2, 2010 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  15. charlie from the North

    I don't blame Bush for the fact that we have not yet come out of the disaster that de-regulation caused. He shares that blame with Ronald Reagan Bush I and Clinton (at least for the financial piece).

    No! I blame the Republicans that we have now and a few blue dogs for blocking reform every step of the way.

    July 2, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  16. Albo58

    "The dog ate my homework" defense is all this empty suit has in place of any real leadership skills! Furthermore, he has surrounded himself with the stupidity-levels of the likes of Pelosi, Biden, Reid, Durbin, Schumer, Emanual and many, many more nitwits so it's little wonder that he thinks himself a genius!

    July 2, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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