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05.19.10

Stop Blaming Bush

Obama’s team continues to blame America’s problems on his predecessor. But as Tuesday’s vote made clear, voters are holding 44 accountable.

An economy in recession. An ever-deepening deficit. An increase in terrorist attacks. And an angry, divided electorate. If only Bush had not won that third term. So says Barack Obama.

Much like the schoolyard taunt,” I'm rubber, you're glue,” President Barack Obama, the actual current occupant of the Oval Office, continues to deflect criticism of his administration’s failures by persistently pointing the finger of blame back at his predecessor. Even on day 485.

From the staggering loss of jobs on Main Street, to the nation’s loss of authority abroad, and even to Scott Brown’s clarion victory in Mass., the clearest rebuke of his health care takeover, Obama continues to bemoan all that he inherited. And it’s only going to get worse.

Jumping aboard an angry bandwagon of blame will not help Obama. It’s his wagon that voters are now running from.

In the run-up to the November 2010 elections, 44 is once again campaigning against 43. Obama’s positive future-oriented message about hope and bipartisanship from the presidential campaign was ditched pretty early on.

The playbook going forward is clear: look back, blame Bush, and blame the partisanship divide on the minority party. It’s sad to see that polls—not principles—are the driving force behind Obama’s message.

While the majority of Democrats in America blame Bush and the majority of Republicans blame Obama for the economic mess of the last two years, there is strong bipartisan agreement that voters trust their own judgment more than the president's.

The voters spoke loudly in this Tuesday’s elections, a precursor to the bruising battles ahead. Specter, Obama’s candidate—like Martha Coakley, Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds—lost. Rand Paul, the Tea Party favorite, won, a movement energized by Obama’s overreaching policies. And Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln’s fate is still unknown with a June runoff ahead, but win or lose, the seat is likely to go Republican in the fall. Though Mark Critz bested Tim Burns in the special election for the late Jack Murtha’s seat in the heavily Democratic 12th District of Pennsylvania, he ran as a conservative (pro-tax breaks, pro-coal, pro-gun rights and anti-ObamaCare). And Crist will be the incumbent to beat in November’s regular election with an impatient district watching his every move.

No matter how Team Obama and his back-pocket media attempt to spin the story, the voters are madder than ever at the current policies of the federal government. And they are not going to take it anymore. Not content to wait, to hope for change, to watch the game of dodge, they are acting.

The blame game is over. Voters want the president to be a leader who accepts responsibility, who looks ahead. They don’t want the leader of the free world looking backwards and blaming others. It makes the president look small. Too small for a big office.

There is a lot to admire about Barack Obama. His message was compelling enough for me that, while I continued to support John McCain in the 2008 election, I left his campaign after the primary because I didn’t want to attack the man who was campaigning on a positive, forward-looking and optimistic message about bipartisanship and hope. A new kind of politics is what he promised. I hate to see him reverting to the old politics of the past.

November is coming. And 2012 is not that far away. Jumping aboard an angry bandwagon of blame will not help Obama. It’s his wagon that voters are now running from.

If Obama hopes to make it to the next term, he has to take responsibility for the first.

As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, corporations and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono.