m4z0b6pd20120602203705/600 (econ )
Mitt Romney accused President Obama on Saturday of looking for "any excuse" to pass off responsibility for the sputtering economy, and he said Obama had gone so far as to blame former President George W. Bush during the unveiling of Bush's official White House portrait last week.
That appeared to be, at best, an overly sensitive reading of Obama's remarks, which mostly praised his predecessor. But economic numbers released on Friday gave Romney more than ample fodder to ramp up his attacks on the Obama economic record.
"He's looking for anything he can hang on to, any excuse to say that his presidency's been successful, and if there's any improvement in any dimension, he'll grab ahold of that twig and try and say, 'Look how well I'm doing,'" Romney said during a fundraiser in Del Mar, not far from his La Jolla vacation home. "And there may well be some improvement; I hope there is between now and Nov. 6, that there's some improvement in our economy. But I can tell you this -- if there's improvement, it's not because of him. It's in spite of him. This has been the slowest recovery we have seen since Hoover, and it's slow in part because of him and the policies he put in place."
Those remarks are in keeping with Romney's standard stump speech and no doubt will be repeated many times between now and the election as the economy frames the debate between Romney, the Republican nominee, and the Democratic incumbent. It was red meat for the crowd at the Grand Del Mar resort, which included Southern California GOP luminaries such as Rep. Brian P. Bilbray of Carlsbad, Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista, Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine and weight-loss guru Jenny Craig. Attendees paid from $2,500 to $50,000 for tickets to the event, part of a three-day fundraising swing through California. Romney has acknowledged that he stands little chance of winning the state in November, but it remains fertile ground for campaign contributions.
His speech at the event stuck closely to his standard script, except when he raised the issue of Bush's visit to the White House on Thursday.
Speaking of Obama, Romney said: “What he’s very good at is finding other people to blame. Last week, President Bush was in the White House unveiling his portrait. That was a handy occasion, of course, to try and blame the predecessor, how bad things were because of his predecessor. And then, of course, he goes after Congress.”
Obama has, in fact, attacked Bush's handling of the economy on more than one occasion, suggesting that lax financial oversight and untenable tax cuts led to the recession. He has tried to lump Romney and Bush together, saying, "They’re just hoping you won’t remember what happened the last time we tried it their way." And he has attacked Republicans in Congress at every opportunity.
The suggestion that the president stiff-armed Bush at the White House, however, is a little harder to support. In his remarks at the portrait unveiling, Obama did note that the economic downturn had begun in the last months of Bush's administration. "We knew our economy was in trouble, our fellow Americans were in pain, but we wouldn’t know until later just how breathtaking the financial crisis had been," he said. Those may have been the remarks that Romney had in mind.
But Obama went on to praise Bush's handling of the transition, and to say: "President Bush understood that rescuing our economy was not just a Democratic or a Republican issue; it was a American priority. I’ll always be grateful for that."