Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Blaming Obama for Trump

Peter Wehner blames the rise of Trump on Barak Obama in The New York Times. Jonathan Chait responds in New York Magazine.

Wehner served loyally under George W. Bush and refuses to acknowledge that administration’s catastrophic failures. This is an administration that sold an entire war on false premises, pressuring the intelligence community to bend its findings to support the claims the president and vice-president were determined to press from the outset of their presidency. Bush then presided over a historically weak recovery that produced no wage gains — a charge Wehner, falsely, levels against the Obama recovery — and relied upon a massive housing bubble. The collapse of the Bush bubble created the greatest economic crisis in three-quarters of a century, and an economic gulf so deep it took years to recover. This is not to mention the widespread incompetence, scandals, and hackery that permeated everything Bush touched. And yet here is a veteran of the Bush administration arguing in all apparent sincerity that Trump’s rise was fueled by economic weakness and presidential incompetence and dishonesty of a previous president, and that president is Barack Obama.
Trump does say something important about the Obama years. But what he says is something very different. Republicans have spent eight years insisting Obama holds some or even all the blame for their refusal to negotiate with his policies. Why would a party that once advocated Keynesian stimulus and an individual mandate and cap and trade come to denounce all those ideas as ruinous socialism? The explanation offered by conservatives, and taken seriously by many fair-minded observers, held that the party had undertaken a serious process of ideological self-evaluation. Republicans had simply embraced deep-seated beliefs in stringent fiscal conservatism, Constitutional absolutism, and the principles of limited government.
The rise of Trump shows how false that explanation rings. Here is a candidate who makes a mockery of all those alleged principles. Trump reveals that the backlash against Obama was exactly what liberals said it was, racialized hysteria against social change, and that no negotiating strategy or policy concessions could have calmed the rage on the right.
Obama produced a tremendous amount of progress in spite of a backlash he could do nothing to stop. And he will leave the White House with peace and prosperity and an approval rating hovering around 60 percent. Trump belongs to the right. He is a product of the backlash against Obamaism, and the personal and ideological antithesis of the urbane, intellectual, sober, empirically minded 44th president. Trump is related to Obama only in that he is the perfect incarnation of the rage, bigotry, and ignorance that defined his opposition.

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