Selective Amnesia and the Rogue Elephant
The symbol of the Grand Old Party is the mighty elephant, a representation of strength and wisdom. But that flattering imagery is not why the pachyderm is the party’s icon. No, that came about as a result of a satirical political cartoon drawn by Thomas Nast in 1874 in Harper’s Weekly in which a donkey (which Nast earlier had associated with Democrats) was dressed in a lion’s skin, frightening all the other animals in a zoo. One of the scattering animals was an elephant, which Nast labeled “the Republican Vote.” Nast was disillusioned with corruption in the GOP and felt the Party was in decline under President Hayes. He may have used the elephant because Lincoln, the first Republican president, used the image of an elephant in some of his campaign material. As a consequence, by 1872 the elephant was at least sometimes associated with the Party. Nast’s cartoon sealed the deal and forever thereafter the elephant came to represent the GOP.
As an historic aside, and one completely unrelated to the point of this blog, Nast was disappointed in Hayes, who suffered from problems of legitimacy. Hayes lost the popular vote to Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. Nor did he have enough Electoral College votes to be elected. He assumed office only after a congressional commission awarded him 20 disputed electoral votes. At least that election was decided by elected officials and not the Supreme Court.
Elephants are known for their long memories, so only with great irony does the GOP demonstrate colossal forgetfulness. So let us help by recalling past events and Republican claims about Obama.
During the campaign and for the duration of his presidency, the GOP has tarnished Obama with the label of socialist. With his big spending ways he would drive the U.S. economy into the ground, crushed by an enormous debt. The stock market would crash in fear of his socialist policies. Don’t remember? Here is a reminder (keeping in mind that Obama took office in January 2009):
“Obama Bear Market Punishes Investors as Dow Slumps.” In this article the author claims, “President Barack Obama now has the distinction of presiding over his own bear market.” Bloomberg.com (March 6, 2009)
“Obama’s Radicalism is Killing the Dow.” Author Michael Boskin prognosticates that, “It’s hard not to see the continued sell-off on Wall Street and the growing fear on Main Street as a product, at least in part, of the realization that our new president’s policies are designed to radically re-engineer the market-based U.S. economy, not just mitigate the recession and financial crisis.” Wall Street Journal (March 6, 2009)
Perhaps most astonishing of all, John Tanny of Real Clear Markets, wrote on November 25, 2008, an article entitled, “This Is Obama’s Market, Good and Bad.” Obama was not yet president! That did not stop Tanny from writing that, “Lacking clarity, investors can only guess about what’s ahead based on Obama’s decidedly anti-business rhetoric used during the campaign. Whatever direction he takes, it should be clear that today’s stock market is the Obama stock market, so it’s up to him to decide its basic direction.” Even though Obama was not yet president.
He was not the only one. Rush Limbaugh on November 6, 2008, claimed that “The Obama recession is in full swing, ladies and gentlemen. Stocks are dying, which is a precursor of things to come. This is an Obama recession.” He actually blamed the state of the economy in long decline, at the time losing 700,000 jobs per month, on a president elected just a few days earlier.
When George W. Bush left the Oval Office on January 20, 2009, the Dow was at 7,949, a decline of 25 percent over the eight years Bush was president. By March the DJIA had completed its tumble to bottom out with a 12-year low at just over 6500. Now let us look at the headline from May 1, 2012, well into Obama’s fourth year in office:
U.S. Stocks-Dow hits more than 4-year high. On that day here is what the Wall Street Journal had to say: “The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 65.69 points to 13279.32, closing at its highest level in more than four years. With the day’s gains, the blue-chip benchmark is now just 6.2 percent from the all-time high it reached in October 2007.”
What? How can that be? The GOP claimed with confident fury that Obama’s radicalism is killing the Dow. That Obama’s bear market punishes investors as Dows slumps. Remember? Cat got your tongue? The elephant has become forgetful? How else to explain the roaring sound of silence from the far right as Obama ends his first term with the Dow reaching historic highs? I guess this really is Obama’s market “good and bad” as Tanny absurdly claimed even before Obama took office. What does Limbaugh have to say about this? Nothing. Nothing but silence from that quarter. Note that Bloomberg.com has not come out to revise its earlier estimate; nor has Real Clear Markets adjusted its projections. Just silence, forgetful silence, in the face of overwhelming evidence of Obama’s success. They must be silent, because the far right can hardly claim Obama gets no credit when they so willingly blamed him for an economic decline within days of being elected. Silence is their only refuge from the facts.
The glaring lack of contrition by the far right in the face of being so wrong has the sickly sweet smell of pathological hypocrisy. We are sensing the rotting decay of a party bankrupt by ideological extremism in which facts and reality no longer have any more validity than fantasy and falsehood. Their mantra has been reduced to: blame Obama for all things bad but give no credit for anything good, no matter how that might conflict with rational thought. Unfortunately for the GOP the human brain has the ability to remember past events, and with the miracle of modern technology we can record with great fidelity all that the GOP has claimed. Reality does not threat them well.
But the stock market is only one indication of the disastrous economic policies of a socialist president bent on financial ruin. Perhaps the GOP claim that Obama is destroying the economy can be seen elsewhere. Newsweek in the May 7 issue excerpts salient figures from a forthcoming book by Daniel Gross demonstrating the strength of the American economy. Here are just a few of the facts about how the economy has fared under Obama:
• U.S. exports in2011 are up 34 percent from 2009 to $2.1 trillion
• The private sector has created 4.05 million jobs since February 2010 (1.4 million jobs were lost during the last two months of the Bush presidency)
• The S&P 500 has increased 104 percent since March 2009 (the market declined 25 percent in Bush’s eight years)
• Foreign direct investment rose to $194.5 billion in 2010, up from $135 billion in 2009
• The U.S. economy is now growing at an annual rate of 3 percent, more rapidly than any other developed country
The expansion of the U.S. economy began in July 2009, about seven months into Obama’s presidency. Surely, since according to the far right Obama was to blame for the declining economy prior to taking office (“The Obama recession is in full swing… “), he must also then be credited with the growing economy seven months after taking office. No amount of twisted logic and ideological contortion can get around that conundrum for a party so consumed by hatred for the president. If his success is due to policies put in place by his predecessor, then he would have inherited a growing economy, not one on the verge of complete collapse. If a Republican Congress is responsible, that same body would have put in place the appropriate laws when their party also had the White House. Instead they presided over policies leading to economic ruin. No, since they boxed themselves in with their absurd claims that Obama owned the recession he inherited they have nowhere to go four years later in an economy fueled by a near-record high stock market, growing job creation, increased exports and expanding foreign investments. This is Obama’s market, and folks, the Obama recovery is in full swing. But you’ll never hear those words from Limbaugh or his sulking colleagues.
What is good for America and American workers is bad for the GOP, so the far right will ignore the recovery and try to distract us from our growing prosperity with divisive social issues and foreign policy scare tactics. But even there the GOP’s hands are tied. Remember that we were told only Bush could keep us safe from terrorists because there “have been no terrorist attacks on U.S. soil under Bush’s watch.” That claim of course ignored the obvious that 9/11 happened under Bush’s watch. To revise that little oversight, Rudy Giuliani said, “I usually say we had no domestic attacks, no major domestic attack under President Bush since September 11.” But in any case, notice that the same argument is no longer being used by the GOP since in fact there has been no terrorist attack on U.S. soil under President Obama. Obama, not Bush, killed bin Laden. By their own logic, should we not then reelect Obama because he has proven he can keep us safe? The elephant has forgotten again.
Dick Cheney recently said that President Obama has been “an unmitigated disaster to the country.” He is almost right: Obama is a disaster, but not for the country — for the GOP. Let’s celebrate that the American worker and the U.S. economy are winning in spite of the far right’s best efforts to the contrary.