Yeah, I concur that the larger part of the whole shebang was grassroots--to the extent that there was orchestration, it seemed pretty clear the big shots were following/attempting to steer a nascent grassroots movement rather than making it happen from whole cloth. And it does seem like a red herring compared to a substantial discussion of the issues.
As for the "Bush did it" defense, the nuanced version that I've heard of that comes in two parts, one of which is trivially rebutted and one of which takes more thought:
1) 'Bush didn't include the Iraq War in his budgets, instead using "emergency spending", so his deficit reports were artificially low.' -- True on the face of it, but we're talking IIRC 1.8 trillion over seven years at that point, so the Bush deficits still don't approach the Obama ones.
2) 'Deficit spending is the indicated Keynesian response to an economic recession." That's harder to positively refute--one could argue that Reagan's economic successes early on coming out of the 70s were a large part due to the huge cash influx his defense spending pushed into the economy, for example. And it's a basic idea of Keynesian economic that as long as you're not basically destroying goods, it doesn't matter WHAT you spend money on, it's the act of spending it domestically that stimulates the economy. (I'm obviously simplifying this for the purpose of a summary)
I'm not really worried about this year's budget. At this point I'm worried about those trailing off years of increased spending, I don't really think we need to plan for what's basically emergency spending to go on for that long, and I think that we need to focus on sustainable expenditures right quick so that we have a plan in place once the economy gets back into a growth mode.
Frankly, given recent history, I'm hoping that the Republicans retake Congress in 2010 but Obama wins in 2012--in the time I've been old enough to be politically aware, that R/D split has been best for the budget deficit overall.
What I'd also like to find, and I haven't been able to so I might do it myself, is a chart of debt/deficits in inflation-adjusted dollars, just to get a better sense of historical perspective--specifically, I'm interested in seeing how the Obama-proposed deficits compare in inflation-adjusted magnitude to Reagan or FDR.