Bush economic revisionism approached satire this week, as the conservative commentariat began suggesting that voters miss the former president remembered for pursuing economic policies that drove the national economy into a historic recession and financial crisis.
Efforts to whitewash the Bush economy are nothing new on the right, but by suggesting a growing nostalgia for Bush the right tacitly advances the campaign of Mitt Romney, a campaign that even Republicans acknowledge is nothing more than an updated version of what Bush left behind. Moreover, the effort comes as the right tries to obscure the fact that during Romney's tenure as governor, Massachusetts ranked 47th out of all states in jobs creation.
The campaign to astroturf Bush nostalgia began during discussion of a White House ceremony unveiling a portrait of the former president. Rush Limbaugh proposed adding a bubble to the portrait asking, "Miss me yet?" Fox soon followed that suggestion.
In a word, the answer to whether voters miss Bush is "no."
A May ABC News-Washington Post poll showed that Americans are far more likely to recognize that Bush is still responsible for the country's economic problems.
This is a problem for conservatives. Mitt Romney's economic team is littered with the very people who built the Bush economy. Republican officials themselves have acknowledged that Romney's economic vision is based on the model created by Bush. During an April radio interview, RNC spokeswoman Alexandra Franceschi was asked how Republican economic policies differed from the Bush economy, and she responded: "I think it's that program, just updated.
The latest bout of Bush revisionism comes as economic growth begins to slow, due in large part to GOP austerity measures that have placed a significant drag on the economy -- a drag that benefits the GOP politically. Paul Krugman, a Nobel prize winning economist, recently observed: "if it weren't for this destructive fiscal austerity, our unemployment rate would almost certainly be lower now than it was at a comparable stage of the 'Morning in America' recovery during the Reagan era."
While stronger economic growth is needed, it's absurd to suggest that the economy is in worse shape than it was under Bush. Yet, discussing the economy, Limbaugh said: "I don't think that there is an informed person in this country who wouldn't take the Bush economy over what we've got here."
The suggestion that the current economic environment might lead voters to "miss" the Bush administration further muddles the larger conversation about where the economy is in relation to 2008.
While May's employment numbers were down, few people would say that they miss the days in May 2008, when the economy lost 190,000 jobs.
Yet that is precisely the economy that Fox and Rush Limbaugh are pining for when they express fond nostalgia for the Bush economy, an economy that dropped 3.6 million workers in a single year; an economy that shrank by almost 10 percent just as Bush was leaving office.
That's the economy that the right wing media is hoping everybody forgets. Because if they can convince voters that they miss the Bush economy, they help Mitt Romney