Priebus' Downgrade Duplicity: "We're Not Saying" That "It's All Barack Obama's Fault"

August 08, 2011 4:50 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus lit into President Obama today after the president's televised address to the nation. During an interview on Fox News, Priebus asserted that Obama is "in love with campaigning" and making speeches, but "what he's not good at is following through for the American people and being the leader of the free world."

Asked about the "political gridlock" that led Standard & Poor's to downgrade America's credit rating, Priebus shrugged off his party's responsibility before launching into a contradictory diatribe about what he perceives as the real problem.  

"This is not just, look, the economy's in the tank and therefore it's all Barack Obama's fault. We're not saying that," Priebus said. "But it's the policies that Barack Obama has put in place...that launched us into this direction."

MEGYN KELLY (HOST): Is it that he's not leading or he's not leading in the direction that you like? Because Standard & Poor's made clear that one of the issues that led to the downgrade was the political gridlock in Washington. They didn't like what they saw in the last couple of months and they don't think that the parties can get along and resolve it. Is that an unfair conclusion by Standard & Poor's — and if it is not, aren't both sides to blame?

PRIEBUS: Well, I mean, certainly, there, you know, over the years, no one is blameless. But certainly over the past two years, it's the policies of Barack Obama. Now this is not just political partisanship. This is not just, look, the economy's in the tank and therefore it's all Barack Obama's fault. We're not saying that. But it's the policies that Barack Obama has put in place, Megyn, that launched us into this direction. 

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Priebus is understandably uncomfortable with S&P's criticism of congressional Republicans, as evidenced by his stammering retreat from the initial question. Indeed, S&P explicitly identified as factors that contributed to the downgrade the use of the debt ceiling and default as "political bargaining chips" (by Republicans) and "Republicans in Congress" who will not consider increasing revenues.

Meanwhile, Republicans are saying that America's economic troubles are all Obama's fault — just like Priebus did one breath after denying it — and wrongly so. By the time of Obama's inauguration, the projected deficit was over $1 trillion and the economy was already losing hundreds of thousands of jobs per month. So, if Priebus is interested in what "launched us into this direction," he should reacquaint himself with the deficit-digging policies Republicans supported over the last decade. 

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