Nov 13th 2013

When the Blame Game Goes Bad

by Jeff Schweitzer

Jeff Schweitzer is a scientist and former White House Senior Policy Analyst; Ph.D. in marine biology/neurophysiology

The root of all superstition is that men observe when a thing hits, but not when it misses. 
Sir Francis Bacon

In modern times, Francis Bacon would say that "the root of all GOP hatred and vitriol is that conservatives observe when a thing hits, or simply when they claim a thing hits, but not when it misses."

In the rather twisted mind of a modern conservative, President Obama is to blame for all our ills, but he gains no credit for all that goes well. This is no exaggeration; it is quite literally true.

One glaring case in point is the price of gasoline. Surely, you remember that when pump prices were skyrocketing, the GOP immediately and vocally blamed Obama, not only for pursuing a bad energy policy but for actively seeking higher prices. Here are just a few examples:

Mitt Romney: Obama to Blame for High Gas Prices

Romney said on Fox News (where else?) that he believes "absolutely" that Obama is responsible for high gas prices. To bolster his point, Romney noted that Obama does not allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), and his refusal to build the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas. Romney said of Obama, "His policies are responsible for not having America using the energy that we have in this country."

Paul Ryan: Obama Gone to Great Lengths to Keep Gas Prices High

Romney's vice presidential candidate said that... "what's frustrating about the Obama administration's policies are they've gone to great lengths to make oil and gas more expensive." He does on to say, "Let's not forget the fact that the regulations coming out of the EPA are making it harder for us to harness home grown American energy."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)

"The president holds the key to addressing the pain Ohioans are feeling at the gas pump and moving our nation away from its reliance on foreign energy. My question for the president is: what are you waiting for?" Getting more specific, Boehner claimed that, "The president's own policies to date have made matters worse and driven up gas prices."

Senator John Barrasso: Obama Fully Responsible for High Gas Prices

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) claimed "The president has been a complete obstructionist on that, and his energy policy, if you want to even call it a policy, has in my opinion actually contributed if not caused the pain at the pump, and he should be held fully responsible for what the American public is paying for gasoline."

Representative Cory Gardner (R-CO): Obama Policies to Blame for High Gas Prices

Cory Gardner jumped on the bandwagon, complaining that, "The longer we let politicians like President Obama continue to block responsible American energy production, the longer our nation will continue to suffer with high gas prices and limited energy security."

National Review: Report Finds Obama Policies to Blame for High Energy Prices

"What President Obama failed to accomplish through the so-called 'cap and trade' program, his administration is attempting to accomplish through regulatory roadblocks, energy tax increases, and other targeted efforts to prohibit development of domestic energy resources."

Rush Limbaugh: Obama Wants Higher Gas Prices

Oddly, in his rant against Obama, Rush asks, "Will the media ignoring the rise in gas prices be able to keep that from becoming a major factor in people's minds over the economy and Obama's role in it?" Funny given the torrent of news coverage on higher gas prices, and the GOP's consistent drum beat blaming Obama.

High Gas Prices are President Obama's Fault

In this article, the author claims that "The Obama administration's energy plan all along was based upon the rise in energy costs in order to force Americans to be 'greener.'" The piece goes on to say that "President Obama wants Americans to believe that he is powerless to stop the high rise of gasoline prices yet it is his (in)actions that have created the crisis... What the president fails to realize is that there is no one to blame for rising energy costs other than himself."

Billboard Blames Obama for High Gas Prices

In this case, a conservative businessman by the name of Bret Eulberg posted for all to see the message: "Gas $1.85. Obama took office. Tight drilling regulations. No Pipeline. Obama- Higher Gas.

This message is actually a mirror of that proposed by Eric Hovde, who was then a candidate vying for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, who also added that Obama was to blame because his policies let to a devaluation of the dollar.

Need I go on? Can any reader, of any political persuasion, even those who only watch Fox News, claim that the GOP did not openly, blatantly, consistently blame Obama for high gas prices? Conservatives blamed Obama for high gas prices. Can we be any clearer about that?

So what happened when the price of gas fell? Silence. Total, complete, deafening, maddening, huge, gaping, mind-bending silence. Where was Obama's commitment to making prices higher? Where were the impacts of Obama's failed energy policies? Where were the disastrous consequences of delaying the Keystone pipeline? Where were the catastrophic energy shortages due to overzealous EPA regulations? Yet not a single word from the right praising Obama for lower energy prices. He was responsible for them going up, but not coming down.

What happened when Obama cracked down on oil speculation (an activity much supported by free-market zealots in the GOP), driving down the price of gas by 12 cents at the pump? Not a peep from the right. What happened when gas prices fell to a two-year low, with expectations that the price will continue to decline? Nothing on Fox News about that.

Everything that the GOP claimed caused high gas prices are still in place, as we watch prices decline. There is no Keystone pipeline, drilling levels are virtually the same as when prices were increasing, and EPA regulations are still in place. Those "causes" of high prices are now simply ignored by the right in the face of declining prices at the pump, no longer offered as proof of Obama's incompetence.

And then the Republicans finally broke their silence, with the claim that "Obama deserves no credit for fall in gas prices." Read this logic and weep for our country: Representative Allen West (R-FL) said, "If you're the chief executive officer of the United States of America, you should take responsibility for anything that's occurring in this country, and you should not want to seek to get praise. This is what the military taught me: Leaders don't take credit, leaders take responsibility." Um, OK. So, you blame Obama for rising gas prices; but then give him no credit for falling prices because it is unseemly for a leader to accept credit for effective policies - the very policies you were blaming for failure earlier. My head hurts. My heart aches for this great land.

We can do the same analysis for past GOP claims about unemployment, the war in Iraq, saving the auto industry, bailing out Wall Street and the banks... just about anything that happened over the past 6 or 7 years: Everything bad is Obama's fault; everything good is in spite of Obama. This outlook has as much credibility as the claim about gas prices. The GOP has lost all remaining credibility by blaming Obama for all our ills and giving him no credit for any successes. This is a childish, bogus outlook, yet remains central to everything conservative. This lopsided, one-sided, one-dimensional world view is the clearest sign yet that the GOP and the conservative movement are morally and intellectually bankrupt. This lack of depth and nuance, and the absence of the art of compromise (actually praising Obama for something), is precisely what led to the extremism of shutting down our government and threatening default on our debt. Hating Obama is not an effective political organizing strategy. Hoping for failure is not a political platform.

I hope I live long enough to see the day when once again we reject the bizarre extremism of the far right and realize the fruits of effective governance through dialogue and compromise. We will know we are on our way when we can give our political opponents credit where credit is due- and that includes praise for policies we earlier opposed when those policies prove well founded. Extremism and absolutism have no place in America; we can only hope that what we are witnessing today is an aberration much like McCarthyism. Perhaps in 20 or 30 years we'll shake our heads at this folly and wonder how the likes of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin ever made it to national politics. We can always hope.




 


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