Republicans victim of their own weakness

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In February 2001, one of George W. Bush’s first acts as president was to order the bombing of air defense targets in Iraq- air defenses that were firing on US aircraft patrolling the no fly zone. Saddam’s air defenses were being improved with technology from the United States and engineers from the People’s Republic of China. Bush demanded answers from Beijing which at first denied any involvement but later, behind closed doors, demanded reparations for Chinese engineers who were killed in the bombing raids. At no time did then President Bush blame Clinton for authorizing the sale of this technology to China which was then being used to imperil U.S. fighter pilots patrolling the No-Fly Zone; neither did he remind American voters that Clinton promised -- before being elected -- that he opposed the sale of such technology to those he called “the butchers of Beijing” in 1992. 

Seven months later, on September 11, the nation would experience a far more devastating blow that was a direct result of President Clinton’s negligence and malfeasance while in office -- but once again President Bush did not blame Clinton even while Democrats were blaming Bush to gain partisan advantage. Michael Scheuer was in charge of monitoring Osama bin Laden for the CIA during the Clinton Administration and through part of Bush’s first term. After leaving the CIA, Scheuer was a favored guest of mainstream media news programs in search of experts willing to criticize President Bush. The media lost interest in Mr. Scheuer’s expertise after he made this statement assessing Clinton’s culpability for the September 11, attacks:

“In spring 1998, I briefed Mr. Clarke and senior CIA, Department of Defense and FBI officers on a plan to kidnap bin Laden. Mr. Clarke’s reaction was that 'it was just a thinly disguised attempt to assassinate bin Laden.' I replied that if he wanted bin Laden dead, we could do the job quickly. Mr. Clarke’s response was that the president did not want bin Laden assassinated, and that we had no authority to do so.”

In 1998 and 1999, prominent Democrats insisted that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was a threat to the world.

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
--  President Clinton, February 17, 1998

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
--  Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), December 16, 1998

Many other Democrats joined the amen chorus warning of the threat posed by Iraq’s WMD program notably Senators John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, and Secretary of State Madeline Albright while Clinton was still in office. Who would have thought those dire warnings would change to “Bush lied -- People died” just five year later. The Bush White House communications department could have taken video clips of those Democrats and looped them in the press room and could have run the tape every time a reporter tried to assist Democrats by asking about “no WMD in Iraq”. They didn’t. U.S. national security is weaker now because the party that politicizes everything has reduced what was once a bipartisan and important defense objective to “a war of choice”.

However weak Republicans have been in defending their record on defense issues, when it comes to the economy Republicans have wilted in front of a barrage of demonstrable lies. In 1998 on a broadcast of PBS Newshour, then President Clinton boasted, "In the 20 year history of the Community Reinvestment Act, 85 percent plus the money [sic] loaned out under it to poor inner-city neighborhoods have been loaned out in the five years since I've been president." The Community Reinvestment Act, CRA, was the vehicle of home ownership for the poor in the redistributionists view. That program led to mortgage loans being made to unqualified borrowers, who in large numbers predictably defaulted, and was a leading factor in the financial meltdown of 2008. Other elected Democrats bragged about the CRA even as economists were warning about the potential for disaster if the program was not reformed. Many Republicans believe that the CRA was substantially responsible for the financial crisis.   

Many Democrats believe that the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act in 1998 was a significant contributor to the financial crisis. Then President Bill Clinton advocated for the repeal and signed its demise into law. Yet still, Democrats blame Bush and free enterprise (which they call by the slur “trickle-down economics”) and thus Republicans are stained by the economic crisis.

Republicans allowed the Clintons, the Democrats, and media to change the narrative about Clinton’s presidency. Clinton inherited a more peaceful world than any president since Woodrow Wilson. But when he left office the world was about to erupt, due mostly to his failure to understand real-world threats, the need for American leadership, and his worldview still informed with resin of his counter-culture youth.

Clinton’s legend rests upon the myth that he had much to do with the booming economy of the nineties. The facts, however, remain that the economy began to boom once the fear of losing the 1996 election forced Clinton to compromise with the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate, thus dragging him to the center with his inner coterie of former hippie sycophants kicking and screaming. The same Republican Party control over the House of Representatives for which Obama blames for his lack of success is the same party that controlled both the House and the Senate but are left out of the Clinton myth that he and his Democrat allies, including those who criticized him for adopting Republican policies, to make specious claims of Clinton’s economic prowess. Why does all this matter now? Because it is that deception that allows Clinton, as he did at the Democrat convention, to make the statement, “not me or any of my predecessors could have fixed this in 4 years” as an excuse for Obama’s failure to fix the economy. 

Obama has been running for reelection on the notion that “the economy was worse than we thought” once he assumed office. Which is really quite ridiculous considering economic data is not secret. A new president doesn’t walk into the oval office and open the drawer containing “the secret economic data”. Economic data is compiled by all sorts of sources, none of them secret, including the government numbers which are culled from public sources. If Obama didn’t know the status of the economy when he was elected in 2008 it is all the more reason to not reelect him now.

The only reason that the current race for president is even close is because of the Republicans failure, due to weakness, to build the case to the public that economic freedom and personal liberty is preferable to the spoiling and controlling hand of government -- the very government that bears most of the responsibility for the problems Obama claims to be running for reelection to fix with big government. In short, Democrats are better at blame than Republicans are at explanations; the next proof of that will be if Mitt Romney wins this November, in February or March of 2013, Iran will announce its nuclear weapon and Democrats will blame Romney.

Wheeler is an author, former journalist and television producer. He is executive director of the National Republican Trust PAC and his most recent book is Promoting Decline: Obama vs. America.

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