Commentary & Opinion
3:36 pm
Tue September 4, 2012

Stephen Gottlieb: Response to rhetoric from the Republican Convention

I have no illusion that what I say today will register over the important news that will be coming out of the Democratic Convention in North Carolina. But I want to respond to the Republican Convention and the party line the Republicans have been repeating.

Romney at the Convention told his people that “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY promise...is to help you and your family.” In other words Romney made fun of the single largest threat to the American way of life, coming in hurricanes, droughts, floods and the spread of serious diseases, suggesting if we didn’t already know it that the basic Republican position on the seriousness of the environmental threat is denial and ignorance.

But the basic Republican attack on Obama is that his policies have failed the economy. They’ve been pillorying him, saying the economy hasn’t gotten better, and Obama is at fault.

In fact, however, we have not had the economic policy Obama wanted. The Republicans were quite plain about this – they viewed their number one priority as defeating Obama. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell told the National Journal two years ago that “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” To do that, they embarked on a strategy of defeating anything and everything he tried to do from judicial appointments to economic policy. The more something might be a source of pride and credit to Obama for doing a good job, the more vociferously they would oppose it, even policies they once supported. Understand what that meant. The national interest was out the window. They deliberately embarked on a program of disloyalty.

With respect to the economy, that meant that the Republican House vetoed each and every pro-growth policy Obama wanted. He has not been able to take any significant pro-growth policies since the Republicans took over the House.

Beforehe was sworn in, he decided that the patriotic thing to do was to back the only thing on the table, the Bush bailout. There were many flaws in that policy and many ways that stabilizing the financial sector could have been done better, but Obama supported the Bush proposal in the interest of time. And it helped. Then in Obama’s first two years he turned the auto business around and had a small stimulus approved despite strong opposition from the Republicans. That stimulus also helped.

But once the Republicans took over in 2010, nothing. Not one dime to move the economy forward. Not one dime of what Obama wanted to do for the economy. The only stimulus came from the Fed. But the Fed is very limited in what it can do. When the economy goes into depression, its resources are simply inadequate. But Bernanke took flak from the Republicans for doing too much! So the economy has been crawling back too slowly to put people back to work. Plainly for all the rhetoric, the Republicans don’t care about jobs.

That’s not Democratic policy. It’s not Obama policy. It’s Republican policy to defeat anything that would lead to jobs. But they are obviously too ashamed of what they did to take credit for it. So either they think that the economy is doing great or they better start apologizing for their own economic ignorance. They can’t have it both ways, unless of course we turn our minds off and let them.

Steve Gottlieb is Jay and Ruth Caplan Distinguished Professor of Law at Albany Law School and author of Morality Imposed: The Rehnquist Court and Liberty in America. He has served on the Board of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and in the US Peace Corps in Iran. 

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