Robert B. Reich: Erasing W
While Clinton stumps for President Obama, Mitt Romney has gone out of his way not to mention the name of the president who came after Clinton and before Obama.
Democratic National Convention. Former President George W. Bush won't even be at the Republican one -- the first time a national party has not given the stage at its convention to its most recent occupant of the Oval Office who successfully ran for re-election.
The GOP is counting on America's notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice. As whoever-it-was once said, "Fool me once ..." (and then mangled the rest).
Republicans want to obliterate any trace of the administration that told America there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and led us into a devastating war; ignored New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; turned a $5 trillion projected budget surplus into a $6 trillion deficit; gave the largest tax cut in a generation to the richest Americans in history; handed out a mountain of corporate welfare to the oil and gas industry, pharmaceutical companies, and military contractors like Halliburton (uniquely benefiting the then-vice president); whose officials turned a blind eye to Wall Street shenanigans that led to the worst financial calamity since the Great Crash of 1929 and then persuaded Congress to bail out the Street with the largest taxpayer-funded giveaway of all time.
Mitt Romney, in particular, wants to erase any memory of George W. Bush because the former president's record would undermine Romney's claim that Obama's policies were bad for the economy and exploded the size of government.
Besides, the resemblances between Bush and Romney are too close for comfort. Both were born into wealth, sons of prominent politicians who themselves ran for president; both are closely tied to the nation's corporate and financial elites, and eager to do their bidding; both are socially awkward and, as candidates, tightly scripted for fear of saying something they shouldn't; and both presented themselves to the nation devoid of any consistent policies or principles that might give some clue as to what they actually believe.
They are both men who ran or are running for the presidency for no clear reason other than to surpass their fathers or achieve the aims and ambitions of their wealthy patrons.
Small wonder the GOP wants us to forget our last Republican president and his administration.
It also helps explain why Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) as a running mate. Ryan has made his name as someone ready to slash government spending, in profound contrast to George W. Bush, who signed every spending bill that came his way. Ryan is also a full generation apart from W, seemingly representing an even sharper break with the Republicans who busted the budget.
While Romney and the GOP want to erase the memory of W, Obama and the Democrats have every reason to want America to recall and celebrate the Clinton years, when the American economy soared.
(Robert B. Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is the author of the newly released "Beyond Outrage: What has gone wrong with our economy and our democracy, and how to fix it," a Knopf e-book original.)