Historians may debate when current events end and history begins, but Americans have no such quibbles. For most people, current events end at the death of Michael Jackson: everything prior to it is history. And let's face, history is not a subject that we excel in as a nation. That's why white male Republican senators feel truly justified in implying that Judge Sonia Sotomayor is a cryto-racist. (They can't remember their own childhoods.)
But this freedom from history is not the sole purview of the GOP: democrats in the current administration are plenty guilty of the same thing. For proof, I offer the sad debate over a sadder statistic: 9.5% unemployment. That puts us in line with unemployment within the European Union, which is no cause for celebration.
Normally, this tragedy would have been big news for about one night, but when the stimulus plan was passed, the Obama administration claimed that it would cap unemployment at 8%. The GOP seized on this point as proof positive that the Obama administration is nothing but a pack of liars. That 1.5% is a smoking gun of deceit!
As a result, Boehner and what's passing for the Republican leadership -- most too young to have lied about adultery yet -- were out declaring the four-month old stimulus a failure. Their "new" message proudly reiterated that Washington is wasteful and that their own "plan" -- cutting taxes -- would have worked better. Never mind that private industry is hardly a guarantee of efficiency; overlook the fact that a catch phrase is not the same thing as a comprehensive economic strategy. And for the moment, ignore the fact that four months is not enough time to turn the world's largest economy away from economic Armageddon.
Instead, focus on the Democratic response, which was lifted directly from the Bush/Cheney playbook. The Democrats are saying that without the stimulus things would be much worse. And while that may be true, it cannot be proved. In fact, it's the same sort of pitch to emotion (fear) that the previous administration used to justify everything from torture and war in Iraq to domestic spying and the assault on due process. All were justified by what might have been -- something that never occurred in reality.
Personally, I have no idea whether or not the stimulus will work, but I think that Democrats have plenty of real arguments to use with their opponents. Admittedly, some are too complicated for sound bites, but many of them are simple to explain and express. All are superior to the world of make believe into which the Republicans are attempting to lure them. Let's keep the Bush Maneuver where it belongs -- an unfortunate part of history.
Follow Michael B. Laskoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AbilTo