Not according to his campaign anyway, not when he can get away with it. When Romney says "If you re-elect President Obama, you know what you’re going to get. You're going to get a repeat of the last four years,” either he is predicting another catastrophic global financial system meltdown, or he is asking the electorate to develop amnesia. I strongly suspect it is the latter.
Strip away the bravado and Mitt Romney is essentially a one trick elephant. Leaving aside Romney’s appeal to America’s extreme right on social issues (since he himself would rather not discuss that agenda in public debates), his whole case for asking voters to throw out Barack Obama and install himself as President instead comes down to his assertion that a second Obama term means America settling for another four years like the last four, which hardly anyone thinks of fondly.
If one simply omits all consideration of the effects of the Great Recession, Romney has a point. Unemployment, after all, is at the same level today as it was when Obama was sworn in; 7.8%, and that’s the good news. For most of Obama’s first time it was considerably higher. What type of achievement is that? Bad President, Romney scolds, no second term for you.
So what else was going on during all of that time while Barack Obama was failing to find jobs for millions of Americans? Oh yeah, the deepest and most dangerous international economic downturn in over 80 years, which was deeply entrenched and spinning out of control before the President was even elected. Take gas prices, for example, which had spiked to $4.40 a gallon by July 2008. They fell off of the same cliff that virtually all available credit careened over as entire sectors of international commerce began grinding toward an excruciating halt. It seems global demand for fuel collapses when the world economy goes into shock.
By the time Barack Obama took office, a mere 6 months after that peek, gasoline prices in America had tumbled to $1.80 a gallon. Today, with a domestic and international recovery underway and far greater demand for fuel, gas costs an average of $3.77 a gallon in America. So of course Mitt Romney blames President Obama for doubling gas prices on his watch. He claims that gas price increase is proof of President Obama’s failed policies:
“The proof of whether a strategy is working or not is what the price is that you pay at the pump,” Romney said at Tuesday night’s debate. “If you paid less than you paid a year or two ago, then the strategy is working. But you are paying more.”
By that logic, of course, President George W. Bush’s economic meltdown strategy was a smashing success. Who doesn’t like gas prices falling to $1.80 a gallon? No one, well no one except maybe the millions of Americans who were thrown out of work and/or lost their homes and/or saw their life savings go down the drain during the Great Recession. But if you leave that part out, the economic disaster that took place on the Republican’s watch (not to be confused with the National Security disaster that also took place on the Republican’s watch) it all seems so straight forward. The price of gas did double under President Obama. Bad President, go to Chicago (or Kenya depending on which surrogate is speaking for Romney at the time).
Mitt Romney wants Americans to judge President Obama’s first term in office as if we all were living through ordinary times, but there was nothing ordinary about what Obama faced when he first stepped into the Oval office; two American wars and one terrifying global economic meltdown. President Obama avoids playing the drama card excessively, so he tends to understate what he was confronted with. It wasn’t “a mess” that he had to clean up after during his first term. A mess is what ones’ kitchen might look like after throwing an ambitious dinner party. Barack Obama inherited a full blown disaster, one that verged on becoming a catastrophe.
So when Mitt Romney belittles President Obama for an unemployment rate that is the same today as the day he first took office, he is leaving out some details. He is leaving out the part where the American economy fell into a mine shaft, plus all of the struggle needed to climb back out to reclaim level ground. Mitt Romney is being inherently dishonest with the American people. It is conduct unbecoming a would be future President.