Saturday, November 14, 2015

The one question Republican candidates don't hear because they can't answer it

Here's another gem from Steve Benen at MSNBC/MaddowBlog. Why does the economy fare so much better under Democratic administrations?

It was arguably the most important question asked in any Republican presidential debate so far this year. Gerard Baker, the editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal, presented Carly Fiorina with a line of inquiry she probably wasn’t expecting:

"[I]n seven years under President Obama, the U.S. has added an average of 107,000 jobs a month. Under President Clinton, the economy added about 240,000 jobs a month. Under George W. Bush, it was only 13,000 a month. If you win the nomination, you’ll probably be facing a Democrat named Clinton. How are you going to respond to the claim that Democratic presidents are better at creating jobs than Republicans?"

Fiorina, as is her wont, pretended that reality has no meaning and responded, "Yes, problems have gotten much worse under Democrats" – which contradicted the accurate question and made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

But Baker’s observation presents Republicans with a challenge for which the party has no solution.

"It's the economy, stupid."

Kevin Hassett, a Republican economist, said in February, "When Hillary Clinton runs, she’s going to say, ‘The Republicans gave us a crappy economy twice, and we fixed it twice. Why would you ever trust them again?’"

And as things stand, I still haven’t heard anyone in the 15-candidate field craft a coherent answer to the question.

Consider the series of events: when Clinton’s economic plan was considered in Congress, it received literally zero Republican votes, and GOP lawmakers insisted that Clinton’s reckless approach would cause multiple recessions and widespread despair. Instead, it succeeded beautifully.

When George W. Bush’s economic plan reached Congress, Republicans backed it en masse, certain it would be a wild success. It wasn’t.

In the Obama era, Republicans said the Recovery Act would fail (it succeeded); they said the rescue of the auto industry would fail (it also succeeded); and they said the White House’s domestic policies would crush job growth (they did the opposite).

It’s against this backdrop that GOP candidates are going into the 2016 election cycle effectively saying, "Don’t believe your lying eyes; our agenda is bound to work eventually."

As an electoral matter, I realize, of course, that many voters have short memories, and the Republicans’ uninterrupted track record of failure won’t necessarily affect their odds of success.

But the Fiorina-Baker exchange was nevertheless one of the more important political moments of the year.

Whoever is the eventual Democratic candidate, the messaging machine needs to crank out this message over and over.

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