Keith Hennessey, who worked on economic policy in George W. Bush's White House, defends his former boss's legacy:
It is true that President Bush proposed, and in 2001 and 2003 the Congress passed and President Bush signed into law significant tax cuts, and that those tax cuts were not offset by spending cuts or tax increases. If President Obama believes that enacting these tax cuts without offsetting their deficit impact was profligate, then why is he proposing to do the same thing? His budget proposes to change the law to extend all of the Bush tax cuts except those Team Obama mislabels as “for the rich.” He is not proposing offsets for those tax cuts he would extend. It is inconsistent to argue that Bush was irresponsible when he did it, and that Obama is responsible when he does the same thing.
This simply ignores the core context of the recession. I think that's simply intellectually dishonest. But let me also say where I agree with Hennessey:
I can imagine someone replying that it’s not fair to blame President Obama for the big deficits we are running as we recover from a severe recession. The next three bars [in the graph] therefore exclude the first one, two, and three years of an assumed eight year Presidency. Surely no one can argue that President Obama should not be held responsible for the budget deficits in years four through eight!
No I wouldn't. I intend to be breathing down his, the Democrats' and the Republicans' neck on this question. I support the bipartisan commission - with an up-or-down vote. I think that's the only way we will get the political cover for both parties to do the right thing. Obama backs this; the GOP has dismissed it; the Dems have been inexcusably leery as well. It's not fair to blame Obama if the GOP uses its 41 seat majority in the Senate or the Dems simply lack the cojones to block any serious attempt to tackle the debt in the only way that can work.