“I was there [in the Bush White House]. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation’s history. And President Bush dealt with it. And within a year of his presidency at this comparable time, unemployment was at 5 percent. And we were creating jobs.”
Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly is a bit one-sided for my taste much of the time, but he pretty much nails Matalin in his write-up: Matalin’s Alternate Universe.
Deep down, I’m pretty sure Matalin knows exactly what she’s doing, though it might take a round or two of waterboarding before she’d admit it. In the case of Dana Perino, though, I believe there’s considerably more confusion between fantasy and reality in that head of hers. Here she is talking to Sean Hannity back in November, in the wake of the Fort Hood attack:
A transcript, again courtesy of Think Progress:
PERINO: And we had a terrorist attack on our country. And we should call it what it is. Because we need to face up to it so that we can prevent it from happening again.
HANNITY: I agree with you. And why won’t they say what you just so simply said?
PERINO: They want to do all of their investigations. I don’t know. All of the thinking that goes into it. But we did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush’s term. I hope they’re not looking at this politically. I do think we ought it to the American people to call it what it is.
I know Perino is a bit of a dim bulb, and I’m sure she would have made a pro forma correction if anyone called her on her misstatement (not that Sean Hannity would be especially likely to do that). But her willingness to spout contrafactual gibberish like that is indicative of a deeper perceptual problem the she, and other Bush supporters, have.
In the minds of Bush loyalists, as abetted by high-profile historical revisionists and moral relativists like Matalin and Perino, it’s the Obama administration that is obsessed with deflecting blame for the president’s failures by pointing to inherited problems. Meanwhile, they spin as hard as they can (and then some) to push the myth that Bush… was not to blame for his failures, and inherited all his problems from Clinton.
Here’s Benen again:
The Matalin pitch, in a nutshell, is, “Sure, Obama inherited the Great Recession, two wars, a job market in freefall, a huge deficit, and crushing debt, a health care system in shambles, a climate crisis, an ineffective energy policy, an equally ineffective immigration policy, a housing crisis, the collapse of the U.S. auto industry, a mess at Gitmo, and a severely tarnished global reputation. But what Bush got from Clinton wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.”
Except it was. After cleaning up H.W. Bush’s mess, Clinton bequeathed a prosperous, peaceful country, held in high regard around the world, with a shrinking debt, and surpluses far into the future. There was a burgeoning terrorist threat emerging, but Clinton’s team provided Bush with the necessary tools and warnings necessary to keep the nation safe. Bush failed miserably, despite having been given an incredible opportunity to succeed.
I know Benen is a partisan, but I think that assessment is accurate. While Bush was in office, the magnitude of his failures made it hard for supporters to reconcile their support for him with his actual performance. That’s why, with the exception of the rally-round-the-flag spikes after 9/11 and in the early days of the Iraq war, the trend of Bush’s support was always down, and why Bush ended his presidency with support numbers in the high 20s, as this graph from Pollkatz shows:
As the years pass it gets easier for Bush supporters to rearrange their memories to reduce cognitive dissonance. As long as they are content to live in a world of make-believe, that’s a perfectly viable approach. But those of us who don’t have the same incentive don’t have to pretend along with them.