House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was asked this week if he's prepared to give President Obama any credit for the economic recovery after the Great Recession. The Republican leader balked, arguing in ways that made no sense at all that he's more inclined to credit the Federal Reserve.
Would Ryan's counterpart in the upper chamber have better luck with a similar question? Yahoo News this week sat down with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who also commented on the nation's economic progress in the Obama era.
McConnell acknowledged that Americans are "probably" better off than they were when Obama took office in January 2009 -- an unusual concession by a leading Republican at a time when the party's presidential candidates sound like they aren't sure the country will still be standing by Election Day. But he quickly added the caveat that "that's not the way to measure it" because the Democrat took office in the middle of a devastating global financial meltdown. [...] [McConnell] predicted that it will be "a really tough sell" for the Democratic presidential nominee "to make the argument that we want four more years just like the last eight."
The good news is, this is marginally less silly than Paul Ryan's response. The bad news is, it's still awfully difficult to take his assessment seriously.
First, let's dispatch with "probably." By literally every metric, the United States is in vastly better shape than when President Obama was first inaugurated. To believe otherwise is obvious insanity.
Second, it's rather amusing to see McConnell say economic progress doesn't really count because "that's not the way to measure it." No? Pray tell, if we overlook progress on jobs, economic growth, wages, manufacturing, and the stock market, what is the way to measure it?
I suspect what the GOP Senate leader means is that, given where Obama started, we had nowhere to go but up. There's some truth to that, but the argument is still deeply flawed, in part because Republicans said the president's policies wouldn't rescue the economy from the Great Recession (and they did), and in part because the circumstances still don't work in Republicans' favor.
In effect, McConnell is arguing, "Obama's Republican predecessor left him an economic catastrophe, and the president succeeded in cleaning up the mess, but that's not the way to measure his record."
I suspect the White House would disagree.
As for the 2016 cycle, I can't speak to what the American mainstream may or may not want, but to hear McConnell tell it, voters won't want "four more years just like the last eight." Perhaps the senator could be more specific. Does he think Americans want higher unemployment? Fewer families with health insurance? A higher deficit?
What is it about the last eight years that we're supposed to want less of?