Media figures referring to "Obama bear market" did not refer to "Bush bear market"

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN

While media figures and outlets continue to use the term "Obama bear market" to refer to the decline in the stock market since President Obama's inauguration, a Media Matters review for the term "Bush bear market" found no uses of that phrase from the end of 2005 through the end of his presidency, despite there having been a second bear market.

While media figures and outlets continue to use the term "Obama bear market" to refer to the 20 percent drop in the stock market since President Obama's inauguration, a Media Matters for America search of the Nexis and Factiva databases* for the term "Bush bear market" found no uses of that phrase from the end of 2005 through the end of his presidency, despite there having been a second bear market.

Moreover, while the search found 10 instances of the term being used during all of Bush's presidency, in one instance, the reference to the "Bush bear market" was made in the context of saying it would soon be over; two were made by longstanding and consistent critics of the Bush administration, American Prospect columnist Robert McIntyre and financier George Soros; and six do not appear to be references to the stock market at all, but, rather, arose from late-2005 predictions by CNBC host Larry Kudlow and Weekly Standard editor William Kristol that Bush's popularity slide had halted and would soon rebound.

By contrast, a search of the Nexis and Factiva databases** for the term "Obama bear market" during Obama's first 50 days in office found 10 instances of media figures and outlets referring to an Obama bear market, including the Associated Press, CNN host Lou Dobbs, New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Bloomberg News, Fox News host Sean Hannity, Fox News political contributor and managing editor of The Washington Times' digital media operations Jeff Birnbaum, and the Dayton Business Journal. Those 10 also include a Slate.com article explaining both sides of the debate, and a St. Louis Post-Dispatch column defending the administration.

  • In a March 10 AP article headlined "Stocks turn in worst performance for new president," AP business writer Madlen Read wrote:

Is this the Obama bear market? Or hangover from the Bush administration?

Some investors blame the slow-motion crash on Wall Street's disappointment with the government's $787 billion stimulus plan, its seemingly endless bailouts and the lack of specifics on how to rid banks of toxic assets.

Others say Obama inherited a recession destined to become the worst since World War II. And they note the market was already in awful shape at the tail end of the Bush administration, down 44 percent from the market's 2007 peak to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

Either way, Wall Street has not exactly rolled out the welcome mat for Obama. Stockholders have lost $1.4 trillion during the young administration.

  • During the March 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, in response to senior White House correspondent Ed Henry's assertion that "we still don't have those details" from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's plan to purchase toxic assets from struggling banks, Dobbs responded: "Don't have details? Geithner doesn't even have his top 17 deputies in place at Treasury and the stock market has lost 20 percent since this president was sworn in. He has his own bear market. That's the definition of a bear market, a 20 percent decline. This is now the Obama bear market." From the March 9 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

HENRY: Obviously, there are other issues out there the president does have to tackle, but as you were talking about with Candy [Crowley, CNN senior political correspondent], I think a lot of the pressure is really on the treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner. There were some high expectations about a month ago, as you know, when he first rolled out what was supposed to be the next phase of these bank bailouts. Wall Street, but also people on Main Street criticized there was not enough details there. Here we are about a month later, and we still don't have those details, Lou.

DOBBS: Don't have details? Geithner doesn't even have his top 17 deputies in place at Treasury and the stock market has lost 20 percent since this president was sworn in. He has his own bear market. That's the definition of a bear market, a 20 percent decline. This is now the Obama bear market, and there is not a -- there is this sort of silly antics on the part of his press secretary to talk about rooms on fire. You know, a silly analogy and not worthy of the White House or a spokesman for it, in my opinion. Thank you very much, Ed Henry. Appreciate it.

HENRY: Thank you.

  • In a March 8 New York Daily News column, Goodwin wrote: "But the tone of the President's own attacks on industry and his spending and tax policies are increasingly worrying Wall Street and much of the business world. With the stock market reaching lows not seen in more than a decade, including a 20% drop since Inauguration Day, headlines like 'Obama's bear market' are suddenly routine."
  • During the March 8 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): "The stock market has dropped 20 percent since the Obama inauguration. Can this now fairly be called the Obama bear market?" Later in the show, Wallace said to Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume: "Brit, John McCain didn't want to answer the question, but I'll ask you. Is this the Obama bear market?" From the March 8 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: The stock market has dropped 20 percent since the Obama inauguration. Can this now fairly be called the Obama bear market?

McCAIN: I think -- I'd leave -- like to leave that up to the experts. But I do believe that a $1.2 trillion stimulus package, add that to a $750 billion TARP, add that to this $480 billion supplemental, add it to another TARP that's coming down, massive deficits, and we are committing generational thrift -- theft.

We are laying a debt on future generations of Americans. And we had a proposal of spending $410 billion for a stimulus. Yet, after two quarters of economic growth, positive economic growth, we would have ordered a path to balanced budget.

What we're doing is phenomenal, not only as far as the debt is concerned, but the transfer of what the free-enterprise system does over the government. It's the biggest since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

WALLACE: And do you think that is contributing to the decline in the market, the messages that the Obama administration is sending about its agenda?

McCAIN: I think so, but I -- I'm always a little nervous about allowing short-term market activity to drive our conclusions.

But I don't think there's any doubt, talking to friends of mine on Wall Street and people that I know, that this is not a positive signal. All of this spending, all of this debt, all of the policies that will now, in the long term, cause us to have a negative GT -- GB --

WALLACE: GDP.

McCAIN: -- GDP growth, according to the Congressional Budget Office, over time.

[...]

WALLACE: Well, as we've been discussing, the stock market is officially in bear territory, down exactly 20 percent since the Obama inauguration.

Brit, John McCain didn't want to answer the question, but I'll ask you. Is this the Obama bear market?

HUME: Well, it's kind of a bear market within a bear market.

  • In a March 6 Bloomberg News article headlined " 'Obama Bear Market' Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps," reporter Eric Martin wrote: "President Barack Obama now has the distinction of presiding over his own bear market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 20 percent since Inauguration Day through yesterday, the fastest drop under a newly elected president in at least 90 years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The gauge lost 53 percent from its October 2007 record of 14,164.53, slipping 4.1 percent to 6,594.44 yesterday."
  • On the March 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity, Hannity stated: "And our headline this Friday night: Welcome to Day Number 46 of 'Obama's Bear Market.' Now, that's what some news organizations are calling it tonight as the Dow Jones industrial average actually finished up about 30 points today at the end of a disastrous week." From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: And our headline this Friday night: Welcome to Day Number 46 of "Obama's Bear Market." Now, that's what some news organizations are calling it tonight as the Dow Jones industrial average actually finished up about 30 points today at the end of a disastrous week.

According to Bloomberg News, the Dow has now dropped faster during the first six weeks of the Obama administration than any other administration in at least 90 years. But is that a surprise after weeks of talking down the economy?

  • On the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report, Birnbaum said: "Well, I think that we're, without question, in the Obama bear market, literally. Since he was inaugurated, there's been a 20 percent decline in the Dow Jones industrial average. That's the definition of a bear market. And, in fact, the Dow is down 30 percent since his election." From the March 6 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:

BRET BAIER (host): President Obama in Columbus, Ohio, today talking about the state of the economy on a day when new unemployment figures show that the unemployment rate is now at 8.1 percent. It hasn't been that high since 1983, when it reached 8.3 percent before jumping to 10.8 percent under President Reagan.

So what about the economy and what this administration is doing? Let's bring in our panel -- Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of The Washington Times, Judith Miller of the Manhattan Institute, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Jeff, we get a lot of email on this show, and a lot of people ask is what the administration doing helping or hurting?

It's a tough question to answer now --

BIRNBAUM: It's a very -- yeah.

BAIER: -- but let's talk about the economy overall.

BIRNBAUM: Well, I think that we're, without question, in the Obama bear market, literally. Since he was inaugurated, there's been a 20 percent decline in the Dow Jones industrial average.

That's the definition of a bear market. And, in fact, the Dow is down 30 percent since his election.

  • A March 6 Dayton Business Journal article stated:

Thursday was a record day for the stock market, but not in a good way.

Only the closing bell stemmed the downward flow on Wall Street. The Dow finished at 6,594.44, a 281.40 point or 4.1 percent drop. Nasdaq closed at 1,299.59, down 54.15 points or 4 percent. The S&P 500 closed at 682.55, a 25.72 point or 3.6 percent drop.

Thursday's close represented 12-year lows for both the S&P and the Dow.

In early Friday trading, the Dow rallied more than a hundred points, but has since lost those gains.

Tom Mangan, senior vice president and portfolio manager of Alpha-based James Investment Research, said a number of factors have brought the stock market back to 1997 levels. He said there is concern about the economy and investors are feeling that President Barack Obama and his administration have not done anything to support them.

Mangan, who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry, said this is the first time he has seen the market react this way.

"I've never seen a market more political, more afraid of Washington," he said.

Mangan said investors are calling this the "Obama bear market," because the Dow has dropped nearly 20 percent since Inauguration Day.

Two other articles referred to the debate over the term "Obama bear market" to discuss its merits:

  • In a February 20 Slate article describing the myriad "debates swirling around the Obama presidency as it heads into its second month," chief political correspondent John Dickerson described both sides of the debate over responsibility for the stock market decline:

Stock Market Decline

It's an Obama bear market: After Obama's inauguration, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 332 points. It tanked again last week after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced his plan for bailing out the banks and tanked some more this week after Obama announced his housing plan -- an 800-point slide in a month. By the end of the week, the market was at its lowest level in six years. Even if you think the business cycle is responsible for much of this, weren't Obama's policies -- the stimulus bill, the bank bailout, and the housing plan -- supposed to do something positive?

Obama's not to blame: The market is reacting to long-term economic conditions. If you want someone to blame, it should be George Bush. The conditions are the result of his policies. Or, if you don't want to blame an administration, just look at the financial sector -- a big component of the Dow Jones industrial average. Two years ago it accounted for a third of total corporate profits. This year it has no profits and its share prices are cratering, hence the Dow is down. Bank stocks may trade based on what Obama has been proposing, but those have lost so much value they're not responsible for throwing off the entire Dow. Sure, Obama's policies may not have convinced the market that recovery is around the corner, but they haven't even been put into practice yet.

  • In a March 10 St. Louis Post-Dispatch column, business columnist David Nicklaus defended the administration on this particular point: "Stocks have fallen so far, so fast since Inauguration Day that some people are calling this the Obama bear market. That's not completely fair. Major indexes are down 20 percent since Jan. 20, but this is really just another leg of the downturn that began in October 2007, when Barack Obama was still a long-shot presidential candidate. The nastiest bear markets always tease investors with hopes of a recovery, as this one did in December and early January, before plummeting to despair-inducing new lows."

However, a search of the Nexis and Factiva databases did not find any occurrences of media figures or outlets using the term "Bush bear market" from the end of 2005 through the end of his presidency, despite the fact that there was a second bear market.

One occurrence of the term was used to criticize the Bush administration:

  • In a December 30, 2003, USA Today article, columnist Matt Krantz wrote: "Mired in the Bush bear market. The Nasdaq is still 764 points below where it was when President Bush was inaugurated. On average, the Nasdaq has fallen more than a point every trading day Bush has been in office."

In one instance, the reference to the "Bush bear market" was made in the context of saying it was or would soon be over:

  • In a July 20, 2002, New York Post article (retrieved from the Nexis database), reporter Paul Tharp wrote:

Pros say the worst of the bear market is over.

If everyone's talking about how the bear's had his fill, it's time to buy stocks -- or so say the optimists.

After yesterday's record selling wave, trading professionals are taking aim at finding a bottom of the rout and declaring the death of the Bush bear market -- the worst in 30 years.

"I'd say, don't panic. There are good reasons why the worst may very well be over," said David Burnham, managing director of Burnham Securities.

"We've already dropped from the 10,000 level, and I don't see a comparable decline of that magnitude anywhere going forward," he said.

Another respected market watcher, Hugh F. Johnson, chief investment officer of First Albany, thinks it's time to make a case for a bull market.

"I think there's strength in the 8,000 level but I don't know if this is the bottom, or if the bottom is 5,000," said Johnson.

"But it's been true that when people talk a lot about the bear market, it's usually over."

Two other occurrences of the term "Bush bear market" were made by longtime critics of the Bush administration.

  • In a June 28, 2002, Wall Street Journal article, reporter James R. Hagerty wrote:

George Soros said in an interview that he wouldn't be surprised if the dollar loses a third of its value over the next several years.

The billionaire philanthropist and financier said stock markets "could go much lower," too, if the U.S. quickly slips back into recession -- something he still hopes can be avoided. Citing his own books, lectures and articles, he also outlined steps that he said could prevent what he calls "the Bush bear market" from turning into a global economic crisis.

After years of rising against other major currencies, "it seems that the trend in the dollar has been reversed," Mr. Soros said. Against the euro, the dollar has fallen about 10% so far this year. Trends in currency markets tend to last several years and involve major swings, he said, so a drop of around a third in the dollar's value from recent levels "would not be unprecedented."

  • In a January 29, 2001, American Prospect column, contributing editor and Citizens for Tax Justice director Robert S. McIntyre wrote:

The Bush Bear Market?

As soon as the U.S. Supreme Court chose George W. Bush as our next president, the stock market fell precipitously. Wall Street analysts who had been loudly insisting on the need for a Bush victory suddenly began to find all kinds of new reasons for the market's problems -- poor corporate profits, weak consumer spending, energy price jumps, and high interest rates, among others. All plausible. But few analysts were willing to admit the obvious: Bush's plans to reverse the tight fiscal policies of the Clinton years with big upper-income tax cuts and hugely expensive privatization of Social Security have made Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve more reluctant to cut interest rates.

Neither Kristol nor Kudlow was talking about the stock market when he used the words "Bush bear market."

  • In a November 7, 2005, Weekly Standard editorial, published online on October 28, 2005, Kristol said that the Bush administration's slide in popularity had reached its nadir: "Last week, the Bush administration's second-term bear market bottomed out. ... With the dénouement of the [Harriet] Miers fiasco and the [Patrick] Fitzgerald investigation [of the CIA leak case], President Bush's beaten-down political fortunes should be ripe for a rebound. As we've said before, the recipe for starting a rally is straightforward: Get back to basics on the economy, the courts, and foreign policy. Go on the offensive in all of these areas. To regain the ground that was lost and to forge further ahead will require energy, discipline, and boldness from the Bush administration, and from the president himself."
  • Kristol echoed his editorial during his appearance on the October 30, 2005, broadcast of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Bill Kristol, are you the leader of the radical right wing of the Republican Party, and did the president cave to you?

KRISTOL: It would be an honor to be leader of such a distinguished assemblage of people but, no, and no, Ms. Miers decided that it had been the wrong pick, I think, from the beginning and withdrew, which was wise.

WALLACE: We should point out that you were also the only one among all of us last Sunday who predicted that this would not ever get to the hearings, that she would withdraw.

KRISTOL: Yes. I just thought it couldn't get to a hearing. Well, sometimes one is right. Sometimes one is wrong.

But I will say this. I think the Bush second term bear market bottomed out last week with the Miers withdrawal and with Scooter Libby's indictment. And I actually think there's a lot of upside now. If you could buy -- you know, buy Bush is my notion right now.

He will nominate, I think, Judge Sam Alito tomorrow from the Third Circuit for the Sandra Day O'Connor seat, or someone like Alito. Alito is a very distinguished, well respected --

  • Kristol then referred back to his earlier assessments in a November 14, 2005, Weekly Standard editorial, published online on November 4:

Last week, I suggested that the Bush administration's second-term bear market had bottomed out. Since then, we've been pummeled by polls showing Bush in continued decline. Perhaps my bullish call on Bush was a bit early. Or perhaps it was wrong. Which is it?

That's up to the Bush administration. Over the next few months, the Bush team will put this bad year behind them, and regain their footing. Or it will be a long 39 months -- a very long 39 months -- for Bush and his supporters.

  • On the November 6, 2005, broadcast of Fox News Sunday, Kristol referred to his earlier assessment to contrast it with his other, accurate predictions over the past two weeks about Bush's Supreme Court nominees:

[host Chris] WALLACE: Well, before we get to the president's troubles, I can't let the predictions of one of our panelists over the last two weeks go unmentioned, unnoticed. Let's watch. Here they are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTOL: I think the Miers nomination is going downhill fast, and I expect her to withdraw in the next two weeks before the hearings.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTOL: He will nominate, I think, Judge Sam Alito tomorrow from the Third Circuit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Bill, the Redskins are favored by three points against the Eagles tonight. Will they cover the spread? This is very important.

KRISTOL: You know, I predicted last week that -- I said buy Bush, the Bush bear market is over. I'm glad you didn't show that one.

  • On the December 4, 2005, broadcast of Fox News Sunday, Kristol said that he stood by his earlier claim that Bush's popularity slide had reached its bottom: "I think five weeks ago I said the Bush bear market had bottomed out. ... I'm just reporting, you know, in a fair and balanced way that he's bottomed out and is coming up a little in not just the FOX poll but in Rasmussen":

[Brit] HUME [Then-Fox News Washington managing editor]: And on the other hand, you have commentators saying the president has now announced we're pulling out. That's what this is. This is a -- we're now into the pull-out phase. I think that's a doubtful interpretation, but the president has clearly changed the atmosphere.

MARA LIASSON [National Public Radio national correspondent]: Yes, and I think he framed the debate as between victory and retreat, and retreat in his eyes is any timetable, any schedule that's not his, and his is going to be conditions-based, as he explained, and it's going to be based on his advice that he gets from the military commanders.

But I think that's how he's framed it, and he's told the American people that he wants to win, which he believes is one of the criteria that they want also, and that he wants the troops to come home, but not on any timetable other than the one that we assume he's going to start applying after the December 15th elections. And I think that might be effective at putting the Democrats in a box. We'll see.

[host Chris] WALLACE: So, Bill, I mean, that's the question, I guess. I mean, is the president, who's been, I think we'd all agree, very much on the defensive on Iraq policy for some period of time -- is he back on offense?

KRISTOL: Yes, I think he's beginning to be back on offense. I think five weeks ago I said the Bush bear market had bottomed out. And it was a little ...

WALLACE: We're really still flogging this.

KRISTOL: No, I'm flogging it, because I'm going to be vindicated on this. You know, he's had a little bit of a bounce up in the polls, if we care about the polls, in the last month, and both ...

WALLACE: You told us last week not to care about the polls.

KRISTOL: I don't care about them. I'm just reporting, you know, in a fair and balanced way that he's bottomed out and is coming up a little in not just the FOX poll but in Rasmussen.

  • On the November 16, 2005, edition of CNBC's Kudlow & Company, Kudlow stated why he believed Bush's popularity slide would soon reverse: "I'd say that Bush's bear market is over because the US economy is strong. There's going to be a budget and tax cut bill and Iraqi troops will be withdrawn next year" (retrieved from the Nexis database):

KUDLOW: Welcome back. We've got Representative Harold Ford from Tennessee. We've got Jeff Flake from Arizona. We've got pundits Gene Sperling and Richard Rahn and we've got money manager Neil Hennessy.

And let me just say Gene Sperling's book, because he thinks sometimes I pick on him and I do not; he's a welcome guest here -- it's called "The Pro-Growth Progressive and Economic Strategy for Shared Prosperity." There you go, Gene. Now, Gene, let me start with you. I want to ask you -- I had this theory; I don't know that you'll agree or disagree. Let me -- I say Bush is bottoming. I'd say that Bush's bear market is over because the US economy is strong. There's going to be a budget and tax cut bill and Iraqi troops will be withdrawn next year. Is Bush bottoming, Gene Sperling?

Mr. SPERLING: Well, I hope things are getting better, but Larry, I got to do a little history correction here. Number one, these are facts. The deficit improved all eight years consecutively under President Clinton. Second, investment boomed all eight years. Third, wages went up for all quintiles across the -- for -- during those eight years. Fourth, capital gains were cut in the context of making our tax code more progressive and dividends were still taxed as ordinary income. Those are the facts that I don't think some of your guests want to recognize.

KUDLOW: Well, those are good facts. Those are good facts.

*Nexis search was for "Bush pre/4 bear market" across the source News All (English) from 1/20/2001 to 1/19/2009. Factiva search was for "Bush w/4 bear market" on The Wall Street Journal and Wall Street Journal Sunday sources from 1/20/2001 to 1/19/2009.

**Nexis search was for "Obama pre/4 bear market" over the source News All (English) from 1/20/2009 to 3/10/2009. Factiva search was for "Obama w/4 bear market" on The Wall Street Journal and Wall Street Journal Sunday sources from 1/20/2001 to 1/19/2009.

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