Several weeks ago, in an interview with the Huffington Post, a senior Obama adviser tried out a new campaign-themed line in the hope of imparting the gravity of the situation to Democratic voters. Should Republicans take back Congress, he said, their policy agendas could be worse then those offered by George W. Bush.
On Friday, the White House hit the theme again. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, speaking at the daily briefing, accused some in the GOP of wanting to not just privatize Social Security but to eliminate the program altogether. And in a briefing with a small number of reporters, a senior administration official made an even more dramatic charge, saying that modern Republicanism resembles the Coolidge administration more than Bush.
"They are talking more Calvin Coolidge than George [W] Bush," the official said. "In a sense they are talking about the same policies on steroids. They don't just want to privatize Social Security, they want to eliminate Social Security. They don't want to just freeze regulations, as Mr. Boehner has suggested on behalf of his corporate patrons, they want to eliminate the EPA. They want to eliminate oversight and laws to protect our air and water.
"[They are trying to] take what has been what is the Republican Party position even further and what is clear is that the party is beginning to follow."
The worse-than-Bush meme has grown for some time now, extended itself into the debate over the Islamic cultural center in downtown Manhattan where the common refrain was that the GOP had abandoned the tolerance for Islam preached by Bush. Whether invoking the laissez-faire regulatory flimsy era of the 1920s can serve as electoral stimulant for Democratic voters is an entirely different question.
It's certainly an alternative-style of pitch from the Obama White House, which spent the larger part of the 2008 campaign denouncing the notion of motivation by fear. The specter of a GOP-led Congress, indeed, took up a fair chunk of the Friday briefing, with the senior administration official repeatedly turning to Republican calls to grind government to a halt should the party re-take the legislative branch.
"If they go down the DeMint path and their attitude is our whole mission here is to create gridlock and our whole mission here is to shut down the government, I think they dig their own grave politically," the official said.