Obama As Bush II
You have to feel a little sorry for George W. Bush. Right now, his approval ratings hover at around thirty percent (on good days), the Iraq War is nigh universally regarded as a dismal failure, and many believe that he is one of the worst presidents in our history.
Bush is not only regarded as incompetent, but stupid as well. No Bushism is considered too unlikely to be believed, (and while Bush has had his share of awkward moments, the story about Bush waving at Stevie Wonder, among others, can’t possibly be true) and it is impossible to imagine a movie like W. being made about any other political figure (except maybe Sarah Palin). Bush might be the most hated and least loved man in America—conservatives tolerate him without much enthusiasm, while liberals unreservedly loathe the man. Barack Obama ran a winning presidential campaign based largely on the fact that he is different than Bush.
Nobody likes Bush—but Obama seems ready to carry on the policies of the Bush administration during his time in the White House. During the election season, there were two vitally important issues: the War in Iraq and the economy. Both candidates spent a lot of time harshly criticizing the President on his handling of these issues. Yet now that he’s in the White House, Obama’s policies on both issues mirror those of Bush.
After years of condemning Bush for his decisions in Iraq, Obama seems set on concluding the war pretty much exactly as Bush would have. He has inserted pro-war Hillary Clinton as his (future) Secretary of State, and is plans on keeping Robert Gates as his Secretary of Defense. (That means that two of the nation’s most influential foreign policy positions will be filled by people who enthusiastically supported the Iraq War). Obama has ceased talking about withdrawal schedules; instead, he seems confident in Gates’ ability to bring the war to a close. And Gates’ position is, of course, that of the Bush Administration.
On the economy, too, Bush and Obama’s positions seem to overlap. After the economy started it’s meltdown, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson thought the best way to bring the economy back would be to implement a massive rescue package. Obama agreed. Seven trillion dollars later, Obama is still on board with most of Bush’s economic rescue plan. His plan (which he has been quite vocal about) seems to be almost exactly that of President Bush—inject money into failing companies in order to stabilize the credit market. Obama and Bush differ on some details—Obama, for instance, is more enthusiastic about a possible autobailout—but generally, the two sides seem to agree on broad details.
On these two issues, at least, it is not easy (so far) to see a significant difference between Obama and Bush.
Granted, events forced Obama’s hand a bit—the surge, however little Democrats want to admit it, fundamentally altered the Iraq situation and made Obama’s old anti-war position outdated. And Bush’s response to the financial crisis is Keynesian and probably at least somewhat similar to what Obama’s plan would have been anyway. So it is not as if Obama is suddenly experiencing a conservative epiphany. But Bush’s strategy was hardly the only one Obama could have chosen, and Obama seems to be following Bush’s lead on these issues.
No liberal would ever admit it, but perhaps Bush is not as incompetent as many think he is. And for all his talk of “hope” and “change,” perhaps Obama is a great deal more pragmatic than he seems to be. But it is ironic that the man who condemned John McCain for representing “more of the same” is starting his presidential journey by continuing many of Bush’s most controversial policies.