In the aftermath of President Obama's somewhat disappointing speech last night on the largely successful Fight for Freedom in Iraq, now is another moment for me to reflect on our 43rd president.
It's no secret that I don't take well to criticism of George W. Bush, especially when it is of the know-nothing and historically obtuse variety (these are most often delivered by partisan Democrats). However, it is a particular sore spot with me when Republicans and self-described conservatives are providing the critique -- and I've heard more than my share of those. I, naturally, was pleased yesterday morning to read a post from Matt A. Mayer of the Buckeye Institute over at National Review that does a good job of providing good context on the financial era actually inherited by Dubya (rather than the mythological economic presumptions touted by Democrats) in his post titled The Hole that We're In:
Look, as a conservative who dragged my six-months-pregnant wife from beautiful Colorado to the swamp of Washington, D.C., in 2004 to serve Pres. George W. Bush, no one was more frustrated by the big-government growth that occurred under Republican rule than me. That said, I have grown tired of the near-constant assault on the Bush years, especially when those assaults focus on the economic weakness of those years and conveniently ignore what happened in the few years before President Bush took office.
Mayer goes on to attack, quite properly, the alleged boom years of the Clinton presidency.
[T]he Clinton boom was built upon the mirage of the dot-com and technology craze, as well as the book-cooking of companies like Enron, Global Crossing, and WorldCom. The fact of the mirage is clear when one looks at the S&P 500. Specifically:The piece goes on to look at the housing bubble and makes the same comparison regarding historical growth compared to the bubble growth that occurred from 1997 to 2006.
On December 9, 1994, the S&P 500 traded at 446.96. From that day until May 24, 2000, it grew by 242%, or an annualized growth rate of 26.15%, to a then record 1,527.46. Even the dotcom and corporate fraud bust failed to totally squeeze the inflated gains out of the market. On January 19, 2001, the day before Bush started his presidency, the S&P 500 traded at 1,342.54, which was still a 200% net gain from December 1994 or a 19.71% annualized growth rate.” Although written in January 2009, when the S&P 500 traded slightly lower than it is today, “[t]he reality is that the current trading price at around 900 is where the S&P 500 would have been had it grown at 5% per year, which is close to the pre-December 1994 annualized growth rate.
Read his entire post; we should never gloss over or forget these factors. For good background on the financial numbers from a layman's perspective, you might want to read a book I wish I had followed years ago -- Get Rich Slowly, by William T. Spitz (at the time of its original publication in the early 1990s, Treasurer at Vanderbilt University; currently, he is a Director & Principal at Diversified Trust Company). From the new media universe, you might also want to review the apparently unrelated Get Rich Slowly blog.
Finally, Jennifer Rubin at Commentary Magazine's Contentions Blog has a post up explaining that a Democrat pollster (Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling) has revealed survey results that indicate “by a 50-42 margin voters [in Ohio] say they’d rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama."
The bloom certainly is off that particular rose, isn't it? Why come, as the street committee might ask? Rubin gives up three probabilities:
First, Obama’s juvenile buck-passing hasn’t and won’t work. The election game plan of threatening the return of Bush isn’t going to fly. Heck, the voters wouldn’t mind having him back! Second, Obama has, to a degree we have not seen in recent years, shied away from acknowledging error. His “out” was always that Bush had messed things up — far worse than we even imagined. Now with Bush-bashing proven to be entirely counterproductive, what will Obama do to deflect blame? And finally, you have to keep faith with the American people. They may get impatient and lose perspective, but they remain exceedingly fair and possess a large reservoir of common sense (e.g., a mosque at Ground Zero is absurd, Bush was a decent man who made tough calls, we shouldn’t dump on loyal allies). It is good to be reminded of that.
There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in observing the nation awaken from the jaw-dropping unseriousness that sang the praises of Barack Obama for simply looking good and enunciating well. That foolishness has finally evaporated, thank goodness.