Political Intelligence

Mitt Romney defended Bush in 2004 over inherited dicey economy

When President Obama tries to soften attacks on his stewardship of the economy by pointing to the dismal economic conditions he inherited, Mitt Romney scoffs and accuses the president of making excuses.

But Romney made a similar argument to the one Obama makes when it was President Bush who was under attack in 2004. Back then, Bush was facing heat from Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry, who was blaming the president for leading the country into a recession and then failing to lead it out.

Romney, however, rejected that line of attack. Like Obama these days, he put a greater emphasis on the economic factors that greeted Bush when he took office.

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“The people of America recognize that the slowdown in jobs that occurred during the early years of the Bush administration were the result of a perfect storm. And an effort by one candidate to somehow say, ‘Oh, this recession and the slowdown in jobs was the result of, somehow, this president being magically elected,’ the people of America just dismiss that as being poppycock, and they recognize that,” Romney said in early 2004, at the opening of Bush’s Massachusetts headquarters, according to a videotape of his remarks that is part of the Romney administration’s records held at the state archives in Boston.

“They recognize that Sept. 11, 2001, had a very significant impact on our economy, and on jobs in this economy, and to pretend that it doesn’t is just silliness,” Romney continued. “They also recognize that there was a cyclical recession that rebounded from the extravagance of the period that existed prior to that time, where we had irrational exuberance, according to Alan Greenspan, and we had a downturn. They also recognize that the Internet bubble burst. These things came together creating a perfect storm that meant a huge job loss.”

Nowadays, Romney blames Obama for the heavy job losses early in his term, giving him no such grace period as he argues that Obama’s policies have hindered the economic recovery.

“Governor Romney continually makes the point that President Obama didn’t cause the recession, but he did prolong it and make the recovery far more tepid than it should be,” Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said in a statement today.

Obama and his aides, sounding like Romney in 2004, have responded by pointing out that Obama came into office in the midst of a period of massive job losses.

Like Romney in 2004, they have also argued that events outside the president’s control have undermined the economy. Obama has pointed to such factors as the Arab Spring’s effect on oil and gas prices, the Japanese tsunami’s effect on supply chains, and the debt crisis in Europe.

Romney has said those arguments indicate that Obama is trying to evade responsibility for the economy and, as he said last month, “after three years in office the president’s excuses have run out.”

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