Blame Bush for Massachusetts

By Ed Gillespie

ed-gillespie3Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s stunning upset of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has provoked a fascinating round of election-year self-examination for Democrats.  Shortly after the Associated Press called the race, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen revealed the fruits of his introspection: Blame George W. Bush.

“This year’s Midterms will be a choice between continuing the economic progress and independent leadership that House Democrats are delivering for their districts versus Republicans who are eager to turn back the clock to the same failed Bush-Cheney policies,” Van Hollen said.

President Obama echoed Van Hollen’s comments yesterday, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they’re frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.”

Phew! Good to know. Glad it wasn’t the overreaching liberal agenda of the Democrats in Congress or the Obama White House.

Once I stopped laughing, I started to think maybe Van Hollen and Obama had a point. I actually came up with three reasons why it was George W. Bush’s fault that obama-busha Democratic attorney general in the nation’s most Democratic state lost her bid for a Senate seat held for 47 years by a revered Democrat, less than one year after the inauguration of a Democratic president.

The first dates back to 2004, when Democrats nominated Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to challenge President Bush. Kerry privately proclaimed Bush an “idiot” and couldn’t imagine losing to him. A powerful coalition of liberal 527 groups, Hollywood filmmakers, national labor unions, and the producers of 60 Minutes (not to mention the Democratic Party) vowed to oust the president.

When the Election Day exit polls started leaking out (also intent on helping to oust the president by tamping down Republican voter enthusiasm), Kerry campaign aides took to calling their candidate, “Mr. President.”

In the Massachusetts State Capitol, Democrats did more than pop their champagne corks prematurely that year. Standing on the 10-yard line, they staged a legislative end-zone dance, changing the rules for replacing the surely soon-to-be President Kerry. Under existing law, Gov. Mitt Romney would have named an interim Senator, who would have served until the 2006 midterms.

But Democrats wouldn’t allow the Republican Romney any such chance. Instead, they passed a law requiring a special election within 145-160 days.

Despite the countless forces aligned against him, Bush won re-election. The new procedure for replacing Senators faded into memory, until Sen. Ted Kennedy passed away last August and Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick was unable to appoint his successor. Massachusetts held a special election within the required five months, and Sen.–elect Brown drove his pickup truck over the 60-vote majority Senate Democrats need to pass President Obama’s health care package.

That brings us to the second reason to blame Bush.

In 2007, the newly empowered Democratic majority attempted to pass a lite version of Obamacare, with tax increases to pay for a vastly expanded State Children’s Health Insurance Program. S-CHIP was highly popular. President Bush was not. As the media reminded us daily, he was a lame-duck president with low approval ratings and little sway on Capitol Hill.

doctorsYet Bush opposed the bill, strongly and publicly.

He objected to the idea of expanding a government program for poor children to cover middle-class adults, and shift millions of Americans from private insurance plans to a public one. More broadly, he saw the S-CHIP gambit as the first move toward a government takeover of health care. When the children’s health bill reached his desk, he vetoed it—an act most pundits derided as near suicidal.

But Bush rallied Congressional Republicans to stand their ground. Attempts to override the veto failed.

This year, Republicans in Congress encountered a much less politically appealing health bill. Having rebuffed an expansion of the popular S-CHIP program, it wasn’t so tough to reject the bloated, costly and heavy-handed measure proposed by Obama.

Numerous Democrats from swing districts seem to feel the same way.

Because Bush refused to cave into political pressure to surrender his principles, the Democrats aren’t able to point to the expansion of S-CHIP as precedent for broader government encroachment into America’s system of private medicine.

Bush’s adherence to principle in another area may account for the third strike against Coakley. For years, Bush was told that his policies in the war on terror Martha coakley-scott brownconstituted “torture;” degraded America’s moral stature in the world; exacerbated terrorism; and created a false “choice between our safety and our ideals.” (That last charge was leveled by President Obama in his graceless inaugural address a year ago.)

The new administration followed through by:

  • releasing sensitive memos intended to embarrass Bush and the CIA;
  • threatening to prosecute of CIA interrogators; to move suspected terrorists out of Guantanamo Bay’s detention facilities and onto U.S. soil; and
  • announcing plans to move the al-Qaida mastermind of 9/11 out of military detention at Guantanamo Bay and into the civilian court system for trial in New York City.

Then, when an al-Qaida operative nearly blew up an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, Democrats seemed surprised to learn that Americans were leery of their policies on terrorism.

To be fair, these are not the factors Van Hollen and Obama had in mind. They were talking about the struggling economy, which the Democrats have concluded they must try to blame on President Bush in perpetuity.

When Bush left office early last year, the country was facing serious economic challenges, but the worst of the financial crisis had passed. There’s no denying the $700 billion Troubled Assets Relief Plan (TARP) was controversial, but there is also no denying that the credit markets thawed and major financial institutions stabilized in its wake. Indeed, large amounts of TARP money have been repaid (and not all of it was dispersed in the first place), but voters are upset that instead of using the repayments to pay down debt, Democrats are seeking to divert the funds to more “stimulus” spending.

Former President Bush has declined to make such arguments, keeping a vow not to publicly criticize his successor. His one major public appearance since leaving office came last Saturday in the Rose Garden, where he praised President Obama’s obama-bush2“swift and robust” response to the Haiti earthquake and accepted the president’s request to raise private funds for its victims.

The next day, Obama went to Boston to campaign for Coakley. In his speech, he bashed not only Brown, but his gracious predecessor.

A full year into the Obama presidency, the incessant invocation of “the last eight years” has worn thin not only on former Bush aides like me, but to the public. Americans want a president who takes responsibility and looks to the future, not someone incessantly looking back and trying to blame someone for problems.

Blaming Bush may have helped Obama win the 2008 election, but by this November, still blaming Bush may actually contribute to what are likely to be massive Democrat losses in the House and Senate.

Ed Gillespie served as counselor to President George W. Bush in the last 18 months of his presidency.


  1. Christian, by a 82-10% margin, American voters support CHIP. Again, a GOP Congress first enacted CHIP.

    Unlike you, good thing my good friends from A&M aren’t that lame and are actually concerned about the health and well-being of the next generation of children.

  2. Oh Yes, I’m so mad at Obama, Reed and Pelosi that I’m going out and vote for every Democrat running. Give me a break…….

  3. Oh please!!!! This corrupt bunch of idiots in office along with the impostor squatting in the white house, are destroying our once great country. They are everything our founding fathers detested!

  4. Bruce, it would be wonderful if every citizen had healthcare but has it ever occurred to you that not every citizen wants it. Healthcare is different today than it was when I was growing up. People paid for medical services out of their pocket. They carried hospitalization insurance for any major catastrophe and that was it. The system worked.

    Who pays for the CHIP program should it be implemented? The taxpayers. Have the taxpayers ever been able to vote whether they want CHIP or not? No! It you admire what is done in Massachusetts with their state government healthcare program, I suggest that you move there. I DON’T want to pay for the healthcare of someone else by having taxes unwillingly extracted from me. I HATE SOCIALISM!

    BTW, the University of Texas is a wonderful liberal institution. Did you have any liberal, socialist and Marxist teachers there? Have they influenced your thought? I prefer the way students are taught at Texas A & M University. At least there is some conservatism still alive there.

  5. Democrats certainly have not played all their political cards well in 2009, but Ed Gillespie is strangely rewriting history if he thinks the Bush vetoes of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) were a good idea.

    CHIP was written by House Republicans in 1997 and is a program that delivers publily-subsidized purchase of private health insurance to 7 million children in low-income, working families across this country. Put simply, CHIP is an enormously successful program that has cut our nation’s uninsured rate for children dramatically.

    Gillespie can stick to the ridiculous talking points about why Bush should veto a program with a 82-10% approval rating, but it may have been one of his more bone-headed decisions of his presidency, as Republicans across this country played defense on a vote to unhold a veto of a program that House Republlicans initially devisded. In race after race, Republicans were forced to make false claims to no avail, as the public strongly supports CHIP and helped lead to backlash against the GOP in 2008. In fact, in 2007, communications guru Frank Luntz warned Republicans that “woe is the politicians that fails to address the health needs of children.”

    A review of the Gillespie claims on CHIP would show they to be false. Remember when Rep. Joe Barton claimed Bill Gates’s son might be able to get CHIP under the bill. Just isn’t true and Americans didn’t buy it. But more importantly, Americans saw Republicans give senior citizens and Bill Gates’s father a Medicare prescription drug benefit at a cost of $400 billion without an offset so it drove up federal deficits dramatically and couldn’t understand the hypocrisy of denying working class kids access to private health insurance.

    As a Texan and pround supporter and booster of the University of Texas and its academic and sports programs that are arguably the best this nation has to offer, it is a jolting traverty that President Bush did veto CHIP and Governor Perry does nothing to help address the problem that one in four children in Texas goes through each day without health insrance. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown can say he doesn’t support national health care because the uninsured rate for Massachusetts children is 1.4%. They have universal coverage now and worry the federal law might upset that. But, Texans cannot make such claim and should never celebrate the fact that 25% of its children lack coverage. Texas can and must do better and bad-mouthing CHIP without putting forth an alternative is irresponsible and politically stupid. Ask Arlene Wogelmuth, who campaigned on her lack of support for CHIP in Bush’s home district and was trounced by Rep. Chet Edwards in a race largely decided on that issue and his support for the VA health center, which is truly government health coverage but I am sure Gillespie wouldn’t call for its veto.

    By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans do not believe the next generation will fare as well as they have. The American Dream is being threatened and the next generation that will be running our country can’t grow up unhealthy, which impacts their development and education. As a nation, we should be investing in our future rather than trying to justify denying millions of children health coverage.

  6. The “BLAME BUSH” game they are playing is not being accepted anymore! We the people have awakened and we no longer believe that lie! We know the truth! We are fed up and sick to death of all the BACKDOOR deals, secret meetings, amendments or earmarks being stuffed in bills in the wee hours of the morning, and all the criminal corruption and evil that is going on at the White House and Capitol in DC. In 2010 and 2012 we are going to stop it and take our country back!

  7. DID anyone else NOTICE we never did get an accounting of the TARP money.
    If GW BUSH is responsible BELIEVE me Obama would be all over exposing the FRAUD.
    Since he is NOT we can only believe the Trail leads right back to OBAMA himself. :)

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