NRCC calls crisis "the Pelosi Recession"

The GOP's congressional campaign committee makes the messaging official: The House speaker is to blame for the country's economic woes.

Published March 23, 2009 4:45PM (EDT)

If you've been hurt at all by the country's economic woes, the National Republican Congressional Committee wants you to know there's someone you can blame: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Monday morning, the NRCC sent out a fundraising e-mail to supporters from Michigan Rep. Dave Camp. The subject line of the e-mail reads, "End the Pelosi Recession," and much of the message is an attack on the speaker.

"Pelosi and her cronies know how they are going to continue to bail out big businesses, pay for their pet projects and spend billions of government dollars this year: massive tax hikes," Camp writes. "To put it simply, the Democrats’ Budget spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much. We must work together to end the 'Pelosi Recession,' and start to rebuild our economy with sound and fair principles."

The "Pelosi recession" charge has been floating around for a few months on a very limited basis, with a few people using it here and there, but as far as I can tell this is the first time it's been used officially by a group that represents the party at large. (Grover Norquist coined the phrase, "Reid/Obama/Pelosi recession," and a few members of Congress besides Camp have employed it.)

This bit of messaging seems like a particularly futile one; it's hard to believe anyone who's not already a die-hard Republican will buy it. (Even if it were true, most people have already formed an opinion regarding whom they should blame, and it's hard to change minds at that point.)

As a fundraising tactic, maybe it's not so bad, but the lack of plausibility could diminish its effectiveness. Pelosi became speaker in January 2007, and the recession's official start point is now set at December of that same year. Hard to believe she managed to tank the world economy in that time. Plus -- and I could be wrong, I haven't done a comprehensive search --  I can't even think of much in the way of legislation passed that year that the GOP could credibly point to in order to support its claim. There's the minimum wage hike, and Republicans would normally say that had hurt the economy, but no one's going to believe it caused the current downturn. Beyond that, just remember that in 2007, President Bush was still in office and the Democrats had only the slimmest of majorities in the Senate. Even if Pelosi had tried to push bills that would lead to the current crisis, they didn't stand much of a chance.

This isn't the first time that having no actual reason to blame Pelosi hasn't stopped the GOP from blaming her just the same. When oil prices hit all-time highs, House Republicans started talking about a "Pelosi premium," though, as Politico noted, they really didn't have any justification for doing so. And then, when prices fell, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas -- in one of the earliest usages of the phrases I've found -- blamed the drop on the "Pelosi recession."

There is one other famous instance in which someone has laid the responsibility for the economy at Pelosi's feet: Alec Baldwin's character Jack Donaghy did it in a recent episode of "30 Rock."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Great Recession Nancy Pelosi D-calif.