Updated: May 9, 2012 9:48AM
It’s back! By it, I mean the blame-Bush reflex of Democrats. It has surfaced in the not-quite-yet-a-scandal revolving around Solyndra, the green-energy project hyped by President Barack Obama that collapsed in bankruptcy this month.
Democrats tried to claim the administration of President George W. Bush got the ball rolling on a half-a-billion-dollar loan guarantee for the California solar panel firm. But the record is clear that Bush officials wanted more information about the company in January 2009 — just before Obama’s inauguration — and wouldn’t act on its loan application.
Then the Obama administration picked up the ball and ran with it, pushing for the loan guarantee even though recently disclosed White House e-mails showed there were red flags about the soundness of the company. But, for the administration, Solyndra was too appealing as the archetype of the green energy firm that was going to transform American industry. Then Solyndra fizzled, laid off more than 1,000 employes and declared bankruptcy.
The political damage is huge. There’s video of Obama visiting the plant to tout it as America’s future. There’s the inconvenient truth that the loan grant originated in the unpopular 2009 stimulus bill. Next came disclosure that a big Solyndra investor was a big campaign donor for the president. Then came an FBI raid for Solyndra’s records and a congressional hearing. Whether this erupts into a scandal remains to be seen, but its political fallout was enough to have Democrats reaching for the blame-Bush card.
And it’s not the last time it will be played. What else have the Democrats got? With unemployment at 9 percent, poverty at record levels and middle-class income falling, it’s clear that Obama’s policies have failed. And all he is offering in his latest jobs bill is more of the same.
The left-wing MSNBC screamers are already at it, blaming Bush tax cuts for the severity of the recession. The charge that tax cuts for big earners caused the housing collapse that brought on the recession makes as much sense as Michele Bachmann’s claim that vaccination causes “mental retardation.”
Fueling the home crisis were the Federal Reserve’s easy money policy, lax mortgage lending standards promoted by liberals like Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and the quasi-government agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Bush’s ill-conceived “ownership society” agenda, and the banks, securities bundlers and Wall Street financial giants eager to cash in on the riches they saw in these government policies.
The blame-Bush card is losing credibility since he will have been out of office four years by the time the 2012 election rolls around.
Obama’s falling poll numbers and GOP victories in recent special House elections in New York and Nevada have Republican hopes rising for 2012. That optimism should be tempered by Obama’s record as an extraordinary campaigner and the GOP debate focus straying from jobs. During the last GOP candidate forum, Bachmann’s ranting about vaccinations for little girls against cervical cancer and the other candidates jumping on Rick Perry for his immigration stance almost made the Texas governor look moderate.
His fumbling answers on those issues, his provocative rhetoric on Social Security and his as-yet unexamined views on creationism, evolution and the role of religion in public life make Perry a tentative front-runner. An issue to which Republicans should pay close attention is whether the debate focus on vaccination, creationism and social issues will portray the GOP in a way that alienates independent voters.
Job creation is the issue of the campaign. Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain have proposed specific economic plans. While he can boast about the jobs success of Texas, Perry has yet to come up with his own national economic platform. Romney, until Perry proves otherwise, remains the GOP candidate with the best chance of beating Obama.