The Corner

Memo to Mitt: Run Against Bush

Like Rich’s, my column today also keys off the absurd argument over whether Obama is a big spender (of course he is, and if the Democrats still controlled Congress he undoubtedly would have approved vastly more spending). But I go a slightly different direction. I argue that Romney is under no obligation to defend Bush and the old GOP Congress from the charge that spending went up a lot under Bush. It did. Indeed, looked at historically one could refer to the “Bush-Obama” years in terms of spending growth.

Rather than repeat the argument of the column, I’ll just press the point a bit further. Obama wants to cast Romney as a return to Bush. It’s nearly the only argument he knows how to make. Romney, in my opinion, should turn the tables on Obama and make Obama defend his continuation of Bush’s spending binge (If Romney wanted to be really cruel, he could make the case Obama has continued many of Bush’s counter-terror policies as well). Romney has the luxury of being the outsider. He can criticize both parties’ records over the last decade. The tea parties won’t complain. Neither will independents. And, so long as Romney is respectful in how he frames his criticisms of GOP spending under Bush, most rank and file Republicans and movement conservatives will probably applaud as well.

Meanwhile, watching Obama try to deal with an “anti-Bush” opponent would be hilarious.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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