Obama still faults Bush, GOP on economic ills 

With a year's worth of effort in the economy and only scattered results to show for it, a downbeat White House is returning to a familiar refrain: It's still the other guy's fault.

White House officials in a dual-track message are citing tough, unpopular choices President Obama made to jump-start the economy to explain his steep drop in the polls.

But when it comes to job creation as a measure of Obama's policy success, the statute of limitations on blaming former President George W. Bush has yet to run out.

"I appreciate the ability to forget anything that happened before we got here," said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. "The president inherited an economic downturn [and] he inherited a massive budget deficit."

He added, "It's not part of a blame game, it's a fact of life."

Still, citing Bush and Republican tax cut policies for the economic mess that Obama inherited provides limited cover 12 months later and after a massive spending spree that included a $787 billion stimulus and taxpayer bailouts for automakers, bankers and more.

Tackling the economy was the first thing Obama did one year ago. In November, voters will have their say on whether his policies are working.

"I think people are willing to give him a little more time, but my guess is that after [midterm elections], if something doesn't change, then he is really going to take the blame," said Susan MacManus, a political scientist at the University of South Florida.

Of particularly concern, MacManus said, are higher than average unemployment rates in key political battleground states like Florida and Michigan.

"That is where it will be critical for him to show improvement, and certainly by 2012," she said.

A recent Fox News poll found 36 percent of Americans agree with Obama and blame Bush for the economic downturn. Thirty percent laid the fault with Congress and just 6 percent blamed the president.

But the same poll found the economy remains the top issue of concern for Americans, and 91 percent rate the economy as "only fair" or "poor."

In an introspective Sunday sermon at Vermont Avenue Baptist Church, Obama reflected on his crisis-driven year and conceded that he wrestles with personal anxieties.

"Change is so painfully slow in coming," Obama said. "And I have to confront my own doubts."

A day earlier, Obama hosted Bush and former President Bill Clinton at the White House, to discuss the former leaders' efforts for Haiti.

The contrast between Bush and Obama was striking. The former president, who left office amid general public rancor and posting historic low job approval ratings, looked hale and rested.

His successor, who came to the White House with stratospheric public approval numbers amid high political expectations, looked tired and stressed, his cropped hair newly laced with gray.

Bush, making the rounds of Sunday talk shows, waved off questions about political sniping.

"It's a little nostalgic," Bush said on NBC's "Meet the Press" about going back to the White House. "But I don't miss the spotlight."

jmason@washingtonexaminer.com

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