Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is Obama Really Like Bush? More On My List of Obama Bush Comparisons

Photo from WhiteHouse.gov

Last month, I marked President Obama's first month in office by listing ten ways that he is similar to his predecessor, George W. Bush. On and off the Internet, the response I have gotten from every partisan Obama supporter has been to shut down, ignore my arguments, refuse to engage them, accuse me of partisan bickering (which is laughable since I'm criticizing a Democrat by saying that he's too much like a Republican), and then blame Bush for everything that's wrong with our government. These folks don't seem earnest at all about finding the right solutions to our nation's problems. They are perfectly willing to vilify one politician while idolizing another who shares most of the same qualities as the first. They are just drinking the Kool Aid.

So I was pleased earlier this week to receive a comment that actually addressed each of my arguments. I thanked the commenter for his (or her?) earnestness and promised to answer each rebuttal in an upcoming post. Here is someone who seems reasonable and serious about actually discerning what's best for our country, and with whom I disagree. I always feel better about disagreeing when it is genuine disagreement, not evasion, deflection, and ad hominem. Here, with my responses, are this commenter's rebuttals (if you haven't already, you might want to read the original article for context):

While I don't agree with everything he's done since he took office (or everything he said on the campaign trail) a lot of what's in this article is really stretching to make sense. For example:

1. I'll give you this based on the facts presented, but it's still quite a flimsy argument and picking nits a little if you ask me.

So you agree that the facts I presented are true, you just don't really think it matters? It either matters or it doesn't, and if it matters then I'm not nit-picking. I think it matters to have a President who is honest and transparent and who delivers on his promises. America thought it mattered too, which is why it voted for a politician who it believed would exemplify honesty and transparency. We've seen what eight years of botched campaign promises and lack of transparency can do to weaken the foundations of a free republic. Our democracy is a farce if our leaders get elected on a particular platform of policy and then do the exact opposite of what they promised. You seem reasonable. Admit that it does matter. You know it does. And you should be disappointed that President Obama who promised to be so different has turned out to be the same kind of politician as the rest of them, the kind that breaks campaign promises and obstructs transparency in government.

2. "Have been sold to Americans by manufacturing a crisis and claiming that we simply must act, that there is no other way"

So... the economy isn't in shambles then? It's all just been made up? Whew! What a relief! And here I was worried that we were in the midst of an actual recession and not a manufactured one.

Sorry, but I just don't buy this argument. At all. I've heard nothing out of Obama that comes close to "fear-mongering". A sense of urgency? Sure, but there are some real issues out there that need to be dealt with and bold action needs to be taken.


There's a difference between saying we are in a recession and saying that our economy is in shambles and that we face an immanent economic collapse if we don't pass a $700B spending bill to undertake hurried projects of dubious value with borrowed money, inflated currency, and future taxes. The first claim is true. The second one is unsubstantiated, hysterical, and irresponsible. It's just like the Bush Administration's scare tactics, which resulted in America waging a war of dubious value with borrowed money, inflated currency, and future taxes. Be honest- Obama's tone was not cool and collected. It was calculated to evoke fear and affect immediate action without further thought or deliberation.

3. The Hillary thing... for one, it's the smallest form of technicality and to be honest, I just don't care that much. She's qualified for the position and, to me, that's all that matters. It's like one of those outdated laws that say men can still beat their wives in front of the county courthouse on Sunday morning.

The census thing I agree probably is politically-motivated, and I do actually agree about the faith-based initiatives. It really surprises me that Obama would agree to continue this stuff.

I'm glad to hear that you agree that the census grab and faith-based initiatives are wrong. They are wrong in themselves, and they are wrong because they violate the supreme law of the land, the Constitution. If a President (especially a Constitutional scholar from Harvard like Obama) violates the Constitution three times in his first month, we should all be shocked, offended, and concerned. This is not how Presidents should govern, and this just more of the same Bush-era autocracy. As for the Clinton appointment, the reason it's more than a technicality (aside from what I just wrote above) is because it's designed to prevent the existence of an elite political class that can vote itself powerful positions in government and lucrative pay increases (would you agree that an elite political class is a major ill our republic presently suffers?). It is not an obscure law and it is nothing at all like the example you gave. Our Founding Fathers were very perceptive when they wrote it. And if you really don't agree with it, then we have a lawful process to remove it from the Constitution. Don't just brush this aside- actions like this set precedents, in this case the precedent of ignoring the Constitution. Every time Obama sets a precedent for increased executive power, he's increasing the future power of the next Republican President. Do you really want that?

4. Ehhh.... I suppose so, but again, you're picking nits. Is Obama using his power, in some ways, to his own advantage? Yes, he is. Has there ever been a President that didn't in some way? Probably not. Extending TARP funds and messing with the census doesn't quite strike me as a Bush-level executive power grab.

Dude. He can use this to influence elections. How's that democratic at all? Do you want the next Republican president influencing how district lines are drawn? Or arbitrarily spending billions of dollars against the restrictions lawfully placed by Congress? This is how liberty dies. People don't mind if it gets violated so long as their guy is violating it to move their agenda forward. You forget the next guy might not use those newly acquired powers in ways that you approve. And this is so Bush. Ask yourself honestly, if Bush had done this would you have dismissed it by saying that every President has (mis)used their power to their advantage, or would you have griped about Bush's undemocratic tyranny? And if you really would have done the first, at least you're reasonable enough to admit that most Democrats would have done the second?

5. This has been going on for decades. It didn't start with Bush and it won't end with Obama. I'm not saying it's right or that I agree with it, but you can't expect any President to change the way the CIA has operated for the better part of its entire existence.

Okay. I take it back... you're drinking the Kool Aid- at least a little. Why can't we expect a President to change the way the CIA has operated? Especially to do what's right? Obama promised us this crap would not be tolerated under his administration. He promised us he'd fix it. Any major law or executive order can be said to change how something operated for the better part of its entire existence. That's what new laws and orders do, they change how things operate. Speaking those words sanctimoniously to defend evil policies is what party-line Republicans have been doing for eight years. Now you too? I will at least take your words here as an admission that this is in fact a way that Obama is just like Bush and that Obama appears unlikely to change that. I just wish you would hold Obama (and Bush) responsible and accountable to give us the change we deserve.

6. Oh dear. I probably shouldn't even bother responding to this, but... his thermostat? Seriously? I suppose it is a tad bit hypocritical of him, but do you really expect the President of the United States to not run his A.C.?

As for his daughters attending private school; that, to me, is a personal matter. It's none of our business where his daughters go to school and to be honest, I'd have done the same thing regardless of how I feel about private school vouchers. There are some things that shouldn't be a part of politics and a man's family is one of them.

It's not just a tad bit hypocritical- it speaks volumes. If global warming is an emergency, something that requires immediate action to avert a catastrophic global disaster (which is what Obama, Gore, and many Democrats say they believe), then every single person needs to do everything possible to avert that catastrophe, and by not taking the threat seriously enough to put a jacket on instead of running the heat and emitting more carbon, Obama has been extremely irresponsible. Your argument that he should get special privileges because he's President is curiously undemocratic. He's President, not King. He shouldn't enjoy special luxuries, he should do what he calls on his citizens to do. He sets an example and it is particularly important that he behaves as he expects us to. And I don't care if Obama sends his daughters to private school. You're correct that he has a right to do that. I'm saying he's a hypocrite because he won't let others send their daughters to private schools. It's not about his daughters, it's about our daughters. Why won't he let normal American children enjoy the same privileges his children enjoy?

7. Already said I agree with you on this issue. It is rather surprising to see Obama supporting these initiatives.

Yeah I know. What gives?

8. Okay... so after JUST ONE MONTH Obama already has replaced Bush as the new record-holder for the biggest deficits in history?! Please, do you really expect that argument to hold water.

Nevermind that it was Bush who left him with the VAST majority of it, but there's a HUGE difference between spending recklessly on undeclared (and unnecessary) wars and passing a stimulus bill to jump-start a dead-in-the-water economy.

I don't expect your argument to hold water. So because Bush left the driver's seat with us speeding towards a cliff, you're saying that Obama is therefore absolved of responsibility for pushing the gas peddle down even harder? By the way, we've touched on economic subjects without really delving into economics because that's not the subject of this discussion, but please let me refer you to my article on the stimulus package.

9. First of all, Obama said all throughout his campaign that he planned to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. Second, the two wars are totally different. One was a response to 9/11 and very necessary; the other was little more than Bush Jr's attempt to impress his 'poppy.'

I can't believe you're actually comparing Bush and Obama on being warmongers. Nevermind that Obama has also pledged to END the war in Iraq.

I'm not saying Obama has been dishonest about Afghanistan. I'm saying he's just like Bush. And I'm correct. And he has been dishonest about Iraq. He pledged to end it, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. I can't believe you really think they're all that different. Obama is not an anti-war President. He's just not. He supports the same interventionist foreign policy, global policing, nation-building, and maintaining a global American Empire just like the previous several administrations. He shares along with Bush, the same context and framework for viewing our foreign and military policy, and their differences are in the particulars of implementing that shared vision of American foreign policy. Don't you agree? How can you not? Don't you agree that Obama and Bush belong together in a foreign policy category to which Monroe would not?

10. I admit that things haven't worked so well in this regard for Obama, but do you honestly believe he knew about this stuff? Surely if he had, he would have picked someone else simply to avoid the bad press (like this article) he'd get from it. It's not as if he specifically chose them because of these issues.

Conclusion: While you do make a few good points, I found most of this article to be either nit picking or stretching to find similarities where none exist. While I did vote for Obama, I also have no problem calling any politician out when they make a mistake.

Truth be told, Obama has made his share of mistakes early-on, but he's far from the Bush clone you've made him out to be.

Of course I don't believe Obama intentionally picked scandal-tainted candidates for cabinet positions. But after he discovered that they were corrupt, he didn't care. He backed Geithner anyways and said he would continue backing Daschle. The man really doesn't care about the rule of law. That's my point, and it unnerves me and it should unnerve you too if you want our government to be free from corruption and an elite class of people who are above the law. This is just another way Obama is like Bush.