By Joe Trippi
updated 10/18/2004 10:14:41 AM ET 2004-10-18T14:14:41

“My opponent talks about fiscal sanity, but his record in the Senate doesn’t match his rhetoric.”  These words were spoken by President Bush at Wednesday’s debate in Tempe, Arizona.  On the very next day, Thursday, the Bush administration called on Congress for the fourth time in four years to raise the nation’s debt limit – and allow further spending with no means in sight to pay the growing debt off.

That's fiscal sanity?

The nation’s deficit has grown by over $2 trillion since George Bush took office, and now totals well over $7 trillion. Worse, the Bush administration and the Republican congressional leadership have known they were going to have to raise the debt ceiling for months prior to Wednesday’s debate.

Treasury Secretary John Snow asked them to raise the limit back in August – but President Bush and the Republican leadership were hoping they could wait until after the election and avoid calling attention to our nation’s fiscal woes under their policies prior to Americans going to the polls on Nov. 2nd.

Now, a President who has not vetoed a single spending bill, and wants to make trillions in tax cuts permanent, is asking Congress once again to borrow money from retirement trust funds to keep the federal government operating.

And still, President Bush had no qualms questioning the fiscal sanity of Senator Kerry’s record in Wednesday’s debate.

As Howard Dean’s campaign manager I know quite a bit about this problem.  Governor Dean, among other things, knew how to end deficits and balance budgets. Nothing would please a politician more than to be able to say "we can grow out of the deficit." But no matter how we looked at the problem – it was clear to us that is just not possible. Spending has to be cut, or taxes need to be raised — and maybe both — to avoid passing a debilitating fiscal mess on to our children and grandchildren.

Governor Dean declared that we had to roll-back all of President Bush’s tax cuts. That was the truth, but back in the primaries, that was deemed  impolitic and political poison.

I have plenty of disagreements with Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC anchor and former GOP congressman, but I’ve found while reading his excellent book “ Rome Wasn’t Burnt In a Day ” - that ironically we're on the same page when it comes to the deficit. Scarborough explains what every American should know about why President Bush with his spending and tax cuts, and also that John Kerry’s proposal to roll back only that portion of the cut that affects the wealthiest Americans is no way to avert the fiscal train wreck on the horizon.

Yet the fact is it is the president's record does not match his rhetoric, regardless of his Tempe tantrum on that issue. Right now there isn’t a lot of fiscal sanity coming from either side of the spectrum. But given a choice between the fiscally blind Bush administration and the fiscally one-eyed John Kerry, Kerry's the one talking some sense.

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Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, is an MSNBC contributor and a political analyst for "Hardball with Chris Matthews."  He's contributes to Hardball's weblog, and is author of "The Revolution Will Not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything."

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