Earlier this week – as he was barnstorming the country for Barack Obama – former President Bill Clinton subbed in for the President as Obama flew back to Washington to oversee the country’s response to a major hurricane.
That would seem an appropriate context to ask the question, why hasn’t the most recent Republican President, George Bush, been barnstorming the country for Mitt Romney?
It says a lot that for most Americans this sounds like an absurd question.
Clinton was a major featured speaker at the Democratic Convention. Bush wasn’t even invited to Tampa.
Bush is not campaigning for Romney because he and the policies he implemented are politically radioactive to most American voters.
George Bush is off in political Siberia because the Romney campaign is doing everything humanly possible to prevent voters from realizing that Romney intends to return precisely those same failed Bush policies to the White House if he is elected President next week.
Let’s start with the matter that is uppermost in the country’s attention – the Hurricane.
It’s fair to say that his response to Hurricane Katrina was not Bush’s finest hour. But Bush’s failure to respond quickly and effectively to Katrina was not simply a reflection of his Administration’s incompetence. It was a reflection of the fact that his Administration didn’t believe in Government.
Natural disasters make people remember why it is so important that we have a society where we have each other’s back. They make us remember that government is the name we give to the things we choose to do together.
Natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy make us remember why the law of the jungle – why a self-centered, irresponsible, unbridled focus on you and you alone – isn’t what we learned in Sunday School.
Even far right New Jersey Governor Chris Christie reprimanded New Jersey citizens who refused to evacuate low-lying areas because they would put the lives of first responders at risk – because they had a responsibility to each other.
Bush – and his response to Katrina -- exemplified the right wing’s failure to understand that most Americans believe in a society where we are all in this together, not all in this alone.
And Mitt Romney completely shares Bush’s view. Romney actually proposed eliminating the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) and hand over responsibility for response to disasters to the states. Romney ignores that when disaster strikes, we are Americans first. We have each other’s back whether we are from Mississippi or New Jersey. We do that because it’s right. We also do it because while disaster may strike our neighbors in New Jersey today, it could strike those of us who live in Illinois tomorrow.
But of course there are many other reasons why the Republicans have failed to ask George Bush to campaign for their Presidential ticket. Two stand out.
We have had two great economic experiments in America over the last 30 years. One succeeded. The other failed – in fact, it was a man made disaster.
The first was led by President Bill Clinton. Clinton believed that you grow the economy from the middle out – not the top down. He understood that businesses don’t invest and hire unless there are customers out there with money in their pockets – that they are the “job creators” – not a bunch of hedge fund managers on Wall Street.
Clinton proposed a federal budget that would eliminate the deficit mainly by calling on the wealthiest Americans to pay a little more in taxes -- and by investing in infrastructure and education to grow the economy. And Clinton forcefully defended programs like Medicare when Newt Gingrich wanted to cut them to give tax cuts to the rich.
When his budget was debated in Congress, Republicans predicted it would lead to massive job losses and recession.
The Republicans were dead wrong. Clinton presided over the most prosperous period in human history -- literally. On his watch the economy experienced robust growth and created 22 million new American jobs. Clinton eliminated the Federal deficit and left his successor with budget surpluses as far as the eye could see.
Then came George Bush. He cut taxes for the rich – arguing that this would turbo charge job growth and that the deficit would take care of itself. In fact, Bush’s Vice President, Dick Cheney – a man who has also been noticeably absent from the campaign trail this fall – famously said that “deficits don’t matter.”
The result: Bush left office having presided over the worst record of job growth since the Great Depression – zero net private sector jobs created – that’s right, zero.
Worse, his failure to regulate Wall Street set the stage for the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, costing 8 million Americans their jobs, wiping out 40% of many people’s pensions, collapsing of the housing market, and causing the worst economic downturn in 60 years.
Bush’s trickle down tax policies not only failed to create economic growth – they left the Federal Government saddled with more debt than all of the previous Presidents had racked up since the beginning of the Republic. And remember, that debt load made it even harder for President Obama to clean up the economic mess once he came into office in 2009.
It’s not surprising, then, that you don’t see George Bush on the stump trying to convince Americans that Mitt Romney’s economic policies will create a better life for the middle class. Of course he could step in for Mitt, he certainly knows the script – in fact he wrote the script.
After all, Mitt Romney is promoting exactly the same economic policies that Bush used to create zero private sector jobs, crash the economy and run up the deficit just a few short years ago.
But there’s more. You don’t see George Bush campaigning for Romney because most Americans think his foreign policy was another man made catastrophe. Bush led us into two wars – which by the way he paid for on the nation’s credit card – and alienated America from the rest of the world.
He intentionally lied about the rationale for the War in Iraq – convincing the American people that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, when he had none. The War in Iraq cost thousands of American lives and left tens of thousands injured or disabled. Some economists think it may ultimately cost up to three trillion dollars to the American economy – money that could instead have been spent building schools and roads and bridges and investing in jobs in the United States.
Bush’s go-it-alone, bull in a china closet foreign policy alienated people around the world, stretched the American military and left America weaker. And the pictures of humiliation at Abu Ghraib – his policies of torture and rendition and lack of respect for the rule of law – created recruiting posters for our enemies.
Bush doesn’t campaign for Romney because the Romney campaign has zero interest in focusing the attention of the voters on the fact Romney is surrounded by exactly the same gang of foreign policy advisers that presided over the War in Iraq. In addition they both share the same credentials: both had zero foreign policy experience before they ran for President.
The fact is that if you liked the War in Iraq, you’ll love the Romney foreign policy.
So for the next six days, every time you hear about Bill Clinton campaigning for President Obama, let that be a reminder of the guy you won’t see out their campaigning for Mitt Romney.
The choice is clear. If you liked the way things were going under George Bush, vote for Mitt Romney. But if you want long-term economic growth – if you believe in defending the middle class – if you don’t want to go back to the policies of George Bush – vote to reelect President Barack Obama.