S&P’s own explanation of their decision to downgrade the U.S credit rating spreads the blame around. Tellingly, It slams the GOP’s intransigence over letting the Bush tax cuts expire. Overall, it paints a bleak picture of the whole political system.
However, for the GOP presidential candidates it’s pretty clear where the blame really lies. You guessed it: with President Barack Obama.
What’s interesting, though, is that they haven’t quite settled on a common line over whether the President is responsible for the downgrade by being too active or too inactive.
Michele Bachmann is clearly in the “too active” camp. She was one of the first out the gates with a bell-ringing press release that called for the “immediate resignation” of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. But it’s clear where her attention is really focused: “President Obama is destroying the foundations of the US economy one beam at a time,” she rails. “This President has destroyed the credit rating of the United States through his failed economic policies and his inability to control government spending by raising the debt ceiling,” she continues, suggesting she either hasn’t read - or has completely ignored - the S&P report.
Rick Santorum was slightly more restrained, releasing a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger statement that called out “President Obama and his Administration” for a “failure of leadership.”
He took fault with the Treasury Department for trying to wiggle its way out of the downgrade by arguing that S&P’s math had a two trillion dollar error. “Folks,” his statement reads, “an AA rating should be so far in our rear view mirror that no mathematical error should affect it.”
GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney released a fairly terse statement. In his view the downgrade “is a deeply troubling indicator of our country’s decline under President Obama.”
Tim Pawlenty chipped in with a similar thought, saying, “President Obama is inept when it comes to creating the conditions or job creation and economic growth.”
President Obama’s former ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, held back from assigning direct responsibility to the sitting President. Even more so than Romney or Pawlenty, his statement depicts Obama as a passive figure, and stakes out this alleged passivity as the grounds for attack:
“Out-of-control spending and a lack of leadership in Washington have resulted in President Obama presiding over the first downgrade of the United States credit rating in our history. For far too long we have let reckless government spending go unchecked and the cancerous debt afflicting our nation has spread.”
So the Republican field seems caught between two lines of attack. One holds that President Obama’s policies are directly responsible for running America into the ground. Michele Bachmann’s statement exemplifies this angle. The rest of the field, however, seems to be making the argument that the President has been too weak to take the situation in hand. It will be interesting to see which of these arguments works better on the stump, and whether the candidates stay with their current approaches. It could be an indicator of what rhetoric we can expect from the eventual Republican nominee.