You know how you feel after you’ve just spent a long weekend drinking really cheap gin and tequila, consorting with people of ill repute, eating nothing but poorly prepared spicy food for three meals a day, and spending at least one night in a Turkish prison?
Yeah, I wish I felt that good.
So what happened last night? I’d like to claim that I simply blacked out and therefore can’t remember the events of the evening. But no, I remember everything right up until the minute I turned off the television, shortly before Mitt Romney’s concession speech. I simply couldn’t take it anymore.
I kept up with things for a while on Twitter (where you really should be following me @Blaknsam), so I learned that Romney was gracious and classy, as expected. I also learned that Obama gave a magnificent speech, far more reminiscent of the soaring rhetoric of 2008 than the childish taunts of 2012. I also saw the blame game beginning. That didn’t take long.
Some people blamed Mitt Romney. If he had only mentioned Benghazi more forcefully. He’s a RINO, a Massachusetts moderate. He can’t connect to biological life forms. He ran a poor campaign. He spent the first half of the foreign policy debate prefacing his answers with “I agree with the President…”.
Some of these things are true, but the fault for this doesn’t lie with Mitt Romney. Perhaps he should have mentioned Benghazi, but he would have been preaching only to the converted and to those unfamiliar with a topic almost never discussed in the media. He is a Massachusetts moderate who always seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the language of conservatism, but his choice of Paul Ryan and the dread of a second Obama term brought the conservatives in line. He did sometimes appear stiff in the earlier days of the campaign, and the strangeness of his Mormonism (and the media representations of that strangeness) could make him seem less like a regular guy and more like an outsider to American culture. Also, the single best issue of the campaign for the Republicans, ObamaCare, was negated by RomneyCare. Regardless, this election should have been an easy lay up for Romney. The economy is in the tank, the Mideast is burning, and for the past month Mitt Romney has run one of the best campaigns I’ve ever seen. I would have preferred a different standard-bearer in 2012, but in hindsight Romney was the best candidate of all the Republicans who took the field.
The blame also was being pinned on the mainstream media, and with some good reason. As disgracefully as they championed Obama in 2008, it was nothing compared to the “circle the wagons, protect the President at all costs” lack of objectivity of 2012. The mainstream media somehow morphed into the public relations wing of the Secret Service. The MSM didn’t just lean left, like it usually does. It ignored blatant scandals like Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and Solyndra. Only political junkies were familiar with these stories. For the majority of people, who only start to pay attention to the race at the end of October, these scandals were just names glimpsed in a headline or heard in passing during a dismissive 30-second TV news story. So yes, the media played their part in last night’s debacle. But the media always go Left. Media bias was even more prevalent in 1980 when the only source of news was the three networks and the major newspapers. There was no Internet, no Drudge, no Fox News, no Rush Limbaugh, and yours truly was in high school listening to his Who albums and worrying only about the next day’s math test. Reagan overcame the media because the conditions on the ground were so unavoidably bad. He won in a landslide. The conditions now are worse, yet there was no landslide.
The culture came in for some blame, too. There’s also some truth in this. Barack Obama is the American Idol president, the Kim Kardashian of the Oval Office. Would a country less besotted with the idea of celebrity, less prone to elevating people like Paris Hilton (or Perez Hilton, for that matter) to stardom have fallen for the vacant “hope and change” speeches of 2008? Would people who don’t get their news from late night comedians, The Daily Show, and TMZ ever have succumbed to voting for the man who coined the term “Romnesia”? When Lincoln and Douglas were debating, were there pollsters asking questions like, “Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?” Does anybody really think in the darkest days of 1864 that people looked at Lincoln and said, “I prefer him because I think he connects with the regular folks”? Our culture is becoming less serious every day. Why would our politics not reflect that? Medicare’s going bankrupt? Social Security, too? We’re heading for a fiscal cliff that could cast us into very dark days? Quick, change the channel. Mitt Romney offered prescriptions that tasted like Castor Oil, Barack Obama offered sugar cubes. Yes, I’d rather watch that show with the man with the nice smile who always says nice things and reassures me that things are going to be great any day now. It pains me to say this, but a huge chunk of the American electorate really needs to take stock about what is important.
There is a lot of blame to go around. Some belongs to Romney who ran a flaccid campaign for much of the summer. Some belongs to the media who protected their overlord at the cost of their vaunted (and largely fictitious) objectivity. Some belongs to the Obama campaign and their PAC acolytes who ran a vicious campaign that portrayed a good and decent man as a cutthroat robber baron who may have been a felon and who almost certainly used his Cancer Gun (patent pending) to kill the wife of a worker he had personally kicked to the curb. Some belongs to a less-than-serious electorate that wants to ensure the continued flow of government goodies and avoid the hard questions and harder answers that are still out there, demanding to be heard.
But ironically, most of the blame belongs to George W. Bush.
Bush was a decent man who tarnished the Republican and Conservative brands so deeply that, four years after he left office, his successor was able to turn him into a campaign issue. Barack Obama presented no plan for his second term for a simple reason: he’s out of ideas. He ran his campaign on a simple premise: Mitt Romney is an evil man who will return us to the policies that caused the Great Recession. And it worked, or at least the second half of it did.
Romney proved in the debates and in the past month of campaigning that he is not evil. If anything, he may be the nicest guy to ever run for President. But the specter of George Bush hung over his head. Obama made the successful argument that Republican policies had caused the devastation we now feel. So what if it’s not true? The economy did tank in the last year of Bush’s term, but the actual collapse was not due in any way to the dreaded “Bush tax cuts,” Iraq, or Afghanistan (the three big boogeymen of Bush’s tenure). It was due to the mortgage crisis that had been bubbling up since Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act.
Bill Clinton was the first President to push the notion that everybody should have a house in the suburbs and that banks should lend to people who may not have good credit. In the name of “compassionate conservatism” and in his naïve belief in an “ownership society” George Bush doubled down on that idiotic policy. Banks were pressured into giving mortgages to people with poor credit and no down payments, and the mortgage crisis followed. So yes, in a very real way, Bush’s policies regarding home ownership sped up the explosion of the housing bubble. But this is a policy that Obama rarely mentions, most likely because it has its roots in a Democratic Congress and President, and its initial flowering under another Democratic President. In his heart, my guess is that this is a policy with which Obama agrees.
George Bush, under the noxious banner of “compassionate conservatism” and aided by a Republican Congress that had become the incarnation of Animal Farm, pushed for a massive expansion of Medicare. He pushed for a massive increase in the Federal takeover of education with the No Child Left Behind Act. He initiated the auto bailouts that Obama ramped up. He signed TARP into law, giving the President the de facto power of the purse. He “traded in” his “free market principles” to save the economy, and ended up saving nothing. When the Democrats took over Congress in January of 2007, George Bush went along to get along. While he did many good things as President, at the end of the day he sold out conservatism and replaced it with more Big Government Republicanism, increasing the size and reach of the Feds. He spent trillions of dollars, driving up the deficit and debt while uttering such ridiculous bromides as “When someone is hurting, government has got to move.” It was the opposite of conservatism. The economy reacted as many of us knew it would. It crashed. The real irony here is that Barack Obama, the most liberal man ever to win the Presidency, won re-election based on the electorate’s fear of, and hesitation to return to, liberal policies that were enacted by his predecessor.
It is now done. In 2009 Barack Obama inherited a mess of a country and spent four years blaming George Bush. Now, in 2013, Barack Obama will inherit a mess of a country again. But he can no longer blame George Bush. His predecessor is now himself. He has met the enemy and he is him.
There is a great temptation now for Republicans and conservatives to retreat. I saw more than one “I give up” tweet last night, and have heard similar sentiments from my own family. Michelle Malkin offers these words:
Once again, we have our work cut out for us. We lost this election, but we still live in the greatest country on the planet and we still have many ways to fight for and defend it.
My counsel to you tonight: Please, do not be bitter. Do not fall prey to the Beltway blame game. Do not get mired in small things. Do not become vengeful creatures like our political opponents who voted out of spite instead of love of country.
We still have boundless blessings to count — and to secure.
I remain a proud, unrepentant believer in the American Dream. And I know you do, too. Freedom will endure because we will keep fighting for it. We can’t afford not to, friends.
It’s good advice. Today we take stock, and maybe lick our wounds. Tomorrow we begin the fight anew.