Countering the Media’s BDS Narrative

Listening to the breathless media coverage of The One recently, you’d think this was the first time a sitting President had ever reached across the aisle to his opponents. NPR even gets a former Republican to bash George Bush so they don’t have to. So good for the street cred:

All that praise for the president isn’t just political spin — it’s sincere, Davis said. Obama could end up being more personally popular among House Republicans than his predecessor.

“After Bush, Obama is a breath of fresh air. He’s going to do more entertainment of Republican members, and not just leaders — rank-and-file — over the next two or three weeks than Bush probably did in a year,” Davis said.

At last it can be revealed! Now we know why Congressional Republicans forgot which side they were on during the last administration… they weren’t invited to enough dinner parties!

But how accurate is the “Obama’s unprecedented outreach” narrative, really? As a recent post right here at RWN pointed out, we’ve been fed a non-stop diet of gushing tributes to The One’s charm offensive, each one with a liberal dose of backhanded BDS to remind us how different Obama is from the previous occupant of the Oval Office:

Remember how so many critics of former President George W. Bush called the Texan “divisive”? One columnist contended that the Republican used “scare tactics” to “demean politics and voters.” They faulted him for deriding his opponents.

Now, I have a challenge for those who continue to berate Bush. Can you find anything in his speeches or other remarks, particularly in his first few weeks (even months) in office, when he derided his political opponents as much as his successor has in the past two days?

The criticisms of Bush are two-pronged: first, that he failed to reach out to Democrats and second that he used fear-mongering and divisive rhetoric to browbeat voters into supporting his platform. But contemporaneous accounts of Bush’s first weeks in office show a very different picture from the one painted by Obama’s worshippers:

On Friday, Bush met with Senate Democrats who were meeting behind closed doors at the Library of Congress here. It was the first time in anyone’s memory that a president had attended such a gathering of the opposing party. And Bush apparently charmed many of his erstwhile foes just a day after they had slapped his hand by registering 42 no votes when John Ashcroft was confirmed as Bush’s attorney general.

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), the minority leader, said after the meeting that, like Bush, he and his Democratic colleagues are intent on improving relations-even as inevitable political fights occur. “We’re going to break out of the box we’ve been in and the polarization we’ve experienced,” Daschle said.

…Some Democrats seemed almost disarmed by the president’s personal touch.

“He’s establishing both an atmosphere and a set of personal relations that will pay him dividends,” said Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), an influential centrist. At a previous session with Bush, Graham spent an hour in the Cabinet room talking about the nuts and bolts of tax policy.

Get a load of Joe Biden, 2001:

The simple fact of Bush’s visit was impressive to some Senate veterans. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) said it was the first time in his 28 years in the chamber that a Republican president had addressed a gathering of Democrats.

For eight years we’ve been sold a false narrative of a divisive, insular leader who refused to reach out or listen to the other side but eight years ago this week, George Bush became the first president in modern history to attend the policy retreat of the opposing party.

So much for not listening. As for divisive and fear-mongering rhetoric, our new President seems to be doing a bang-up job:

… each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

A crisis we may not be able to reverse? Really?

Has there ever, in the history of this country, been a recession we weren’t able to reverse? Got hyperbole Mr. President?

Facts are stubborn things, and those who actually care about the truth can look back and see how George Bush’s presidency began. We all know how it ended. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about divisiveness and fear mongering. What I do know is that the previous occupant of the Oval Office didn’t begin by taking swipes at his opponents, calling them selfish or ignorant simply because they oppose him on ideological grounds. Follow that trajectory out to its logical conclusion and it doesn’t lead anywhere good.

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