Last night, Brian Williams asked Romney to distinguish his approach to economic growth from Bush’s. The answer was a mere recapitulation of his plans (“Well, let me describe — actually, there are five things that I believe are necessary to get this economy going … ”). I won’t reprint the entire answer, but Romney did not make the slightest attempt to distinguish his approach from Bush’s. Of course that is because it’s the same thing! Every single idea Romney listed — low taxes, free trade, less regulation, developing energy, etc. — was part of Bush’s program.
But the surprising thing is that Romney didn’t even have that, or any other handy answer to the question. This is a pretty bad political messaging slip-up, but it also indicates a larger problem: Republicans haven’t really internalized the degree to which Bush’s policies truly failed to produce strong economic growth. They blame him for letting spending grow too high, and they recognize that the crash was a bad thing, but conservative rhetoric almost uniformly fails to acknowledge that even pre-crash growth under Bush was absolutely miserable.
And so conservatives have engaged in no critical examination whatsoever of their belief that the combination of low marginal taxes, lax regulation, free trade, and drill-here-drill-now will necessarily result in rapid growth.