Karl Rove's funny numbers

The defender of George Bush's legacy seems to have misplaced two or three trillion dollars of the national debt.

Published March 13, 2009 2:15PM (EDT)

The second "most read" story on the Wall Street Journal Web site Friday morning was a column by Karl Rove, "The White House Misfires on Limbaugh." It's a fascinating column in a number of respects -- not least the Alice-in-Wonderland quality of watching Karl Rove criticize someone else for politicizing the White House. But one paragraph jumps out.

And among those [unpleasant realities] America now faces is Mr. Obama adding $3.2 trillion to the national debt in his first 20 months and 11 days in office, eclipsing the $2.9 trillion added during the Bush presidency's entire eight years.

Where in the world does that $2.9 trillion number come from?

When George W. Bush took office, the national debt was $5.66 trillion. When George Bush left office, it was $10.62 trillion.

Now it is true that Obama's budget does forecast the national debt rising to $14 trillion by next year. But that's the kind of unpleasant reality one must grapple with, when your first order of business after moving into the White House is to clean up the incredible mess left by the last guy. Obama took office and immediately confronted two wars, a broken banking system, and the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression. If he fixes those problems, while adding his own umpteen trillions to the national debt, we might end up considering it a bargain.

But no matter how much Karl Rove attempts to spin the facts, history is never going to look back at George Bush's doubling of the national debt, and go, you know what, it was worth it!

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Barack Obama Federal Deficit George W. Bush Globalization How The World Works Karl Rove