Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Obama: Bush's Worthy Successor

One of Barack Obama's, and every democratic candidate's, tactic during his run for Presidency was to tarnish John McCain as "Bush's third term". That was despite the fact that in many ways McCain differed from Bush and almost derailed Bush's run in 2000. It was a successful tactic. A bestseller arguing against McCain had as its cover a photo of McCain hugging Bush. Obama's highfalutin rhetoric assailed Bush as the primary reason for US being hated by many countries (Pew Global research shows the percentage of haters remain the same even now). In his inaugural address Obama scolded Bush administration for the false choices between security and values. Bush, seated a feet away, looked at the heavens dreamily. Into the 3rd year of his Presidency its a sweet irony that Obama mirrors Bush in areas of defense and security. Its a winning combination. The republicans cannot blame him for acting like a republican and the liberals will hold their noses and still vote for him because they would prefer a 'covert' republican than an overt republican.

Just after securing his nomination Obama, then senator, voted in favor of FISA that included provisions for wiretap etc. Washington Post editorial exulted that Obama having secured the nomination is now moving to the center. Who cared if he won the nomination caricaturing Clinton as not steadfast in values. As President he renewed the patriot act with drama by signing the act with an electronic pen from Europe. Liberals huffed and puffed in private.

Obama angered his base when he re-nominated Robert Gates as secretary of defense and retained General Petraeus in Iraq. Petraeus was a lighting rod for liberals for the Iraq surge strategy. Robert Gates is highly respected for his professionalism and when he retired recently Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in USA. None of which went down well with left wing.

Closing down Guantanamo was a big campaign promise. The attempt to close down Guantanamo ran into choppy waters in his own party and ground realities concerning the prisoners (no nation would accept them and many were hardened terrorists) made Obama to put that away. Coupled to that was the huge fiasco of getting to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, architect of 9/11 in a New York City civilian court. Critical portions of KSM's confessions were the result of water boarding which may not be admissible in a US court. Asked if the administration is ready to deal with the possibility tat KSM may walk out of a NYC court free due to tainted evidence Attorney General Eric Holder asserted "KSM will be judged guilty". Holder's assertion stood in contrast with the cornerstone of modern law, "innocent until proven guilty". Finally the plan was shelved. But such a political embarrassment needed a scapegoat. Obama helpfully scapegoated his counsel Gregory Craig. Craig, though a friend of Clintons, was one of the earliest endorsers of Obama. Maureen Dowd, the redoubtable liberal, wrote a column about how Obama has a tendency to sacrifice friends for his politics. Incidentally Craig later ended up as counsel for, hold your breath, Goldman Sachs.

Liberals carped endlessly how secretive the Bush administration was. Obama now makes Bush look more open and a paragon of transparency. When requests for information based on Freedom of Information act were made Bush had a rejection rate of 9.1%. Obama's administration has denied 15.9%.

During the campaign Obama said he would not tone down the drone attacks in Pakistan and that he would go into Pakistan if he knew for certain that Osama was hiding there. Hillary ridiculed him for saber rattling.Unmanned drone attacks that take out terrorist targets are a huge irritation in Pakistan and source of anger against US  for Pakistanis. Under Obama's watch the drone attacks have increased. There have been civilian deaths too. The killing of Osama, a questionably legal act (many legal scholars do say that US had a right  to do it) was the ultimate Bush like act.

If Bush had his Iraq surge Obama has the Afghan surge. The decision to send 100,000 troops was a tough sell to liberals who wanted to cut and run from Afghanistan, the 'graveyard of empires'.

The sweetest irony was Obama questioning the need to submit to Congress approval the US entanglement in Libya. In the aftermath of Vietnam Congress enacted the "War powers act" to curb Presidents from plunging the country into a war without Congressional oversight. No presidential candidate has accepted that rule in its entirety or spirit. The act stated that in the event of a war taken to protect US strategic interest or in self defense the President has to seek approval from Congress if the engagement goes beyond 60 days. Obama, the master orator and artificer of words, did what is pejoratively referred to as "Clintonian parsing". Obama claimed that US involvement in Libya did not fit the description of "war" and hence he did not need Congressional approval. Dropping bombs, spending money approx $10 million a day, sending US navy and drones all of that does not mean US is at war according to Obama.

Obama and the democrats justifiably criticized Bush for his record number of 'signing statements'. 'Signing statements' are those where a President while a signing a bill into law takes exception to certain portions of the bill and says he will not enforce those parts as head of the executive. Bush used it willy nilly. Of course just as President Obama flip flopped on many that he promised as candidate he did so on this issue too. What is worse his signing statement was to object to protecting whistle blowers amongst Federal Employees. The reason he gave was classic Bush, 'to protect secrets'.

When it comes to spending Obama outdoes Bush in profligacy. The only advantage here is that that is typical of a tax-and-spend liberal so his base has no problems with it. Bush had to contend with the ire of conservatives who scolded him for his unfunded wars and spending.

Bush was ridiculed for his penchant to vacation. Michael Moore lampooned Bush's vacationing in his documentary, in reality it was more fiction, Fahrenheit 9/11. Obama's vacation make Bush look more studious. A worthy successor indeed.

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