Your VP-Debate Prep Sheet, Page 2: 'Romney = Bush'

A little while ago I posted a debate-prep sheet for Joe Biden, suggested by someone who hopes that he wins tonight's debate and that his ticket wins next month's election.

Here's a contrary, Plan B set of suggestions, from a former Republican political staffer who now lives in the swing state of Wisconsin. Compare and contrast (emphasis added):

Your debate prep sheet, frankly, sounds like one you would use if you were debating Paul Ryan. [Hey, remember, it's from someone else, not me.] It wouldn't be the best one for you, and it isn't for Biden, either.

Voters' eyes glaze over at references to Washington think tanks and which ideas were bipartisan 20 years ago.  If references to the Clinton years were a knockout punch for Democrats, the whole GOP would be knocked out by now.  He just wasn't as popular as Democratic political types remember.

BushGE.pngLook.  Barack Obama got elected because, and only because, George W. Bush was such a disaster as President.  Mitt Romney has adopted, point for point, the entire platform Bush ran on in 2004, and that John McCain inherited from Bush in 2008.  Romney never challenged Bush on anything; neither did Ryan, and Ryan has, along with every Republican in Congress, fought Obama on everything he's tried to do to help millions of Americans blasted by the worst recession in 80 years.  The only alternative they offered was tax cuts for their party's largest campaign contributors and, this year, tax cuts for their own candidate.

The recession was Bush's fault.  Iraq was Bush's fault.  Katrina was Bush's fault.  Romney and Ryan are both Bush Republicans, neither one of them having done any reflection or reassessment of the disaster the last Republican President inflicted on the country.  Romney = Bush.

I have never understood Barack Obama's prissy avoidance of that equation.  Right now, when the Democrats could still lose the election, would be a good time to leave prissy behind.  Bush was and remains very unpopular.  So is the Republican brand, largely because of Bush.  For good measure, so is Congress, in which Ryan serves.  You want to leave all those weapons unfired because you think it matters to voters that the Heritage Foundation once talked about health care mandates?

Obama, a product on his class, thinks very highly of himself.  He probably thinks he is President because voters in 2008 shared that high opinion, but all that happened for years ago was that Obama was given the benefit of the doubt by a country badly soured on George Bush and his party.  If Romney represented the kind of distancing from Bush that Ronald Reagan did in 1980 from Richard Nixon and Watergate, equating the GOP ticket with Bush's administration wouldn't work.  Romney doesn't.  This line of attack will work.

If Democrats have to work in a reference to Bill Clinton to keep the old goat from losing it on some talk show, maybe Biden can say the last Democratic President is out there campaigning for Obama.  Where is George Bush?
Presented by

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book


The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"


This Japanese Inn Has Been Open For 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.


What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.

More in Politics

From This Author

Just In