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How Obama morphed into George Bush III

Progressives denounced everything George W. Bush was doing in the Middle East, Iraq, and Guantanamo. Now, President Obama has adopted very similar policies.

President Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden.

President Obama announces the death of Osama bin Laden. Chuck Kennedy/White House

When he was running for president, Barack Obama promised a world very different from George W. Bush’s. Respect would be shown for international law, Gitmo would be shuttered, multi-lateral cooperation would be pursued, and the rights of dissenters would be preserved by overhauling the Patriot Act. Those promises and the new president’s eloquence were enough to garner him a Nobel Peace Prize less than a year in office.

What a difference two years makes.

Last month, The New York Times revealed that President Obama rejected the advice of top attorneys in his own administration who advised him that continued military operations in Libya require congressional authorization. The president sided with other legal advisers at the White House, who counseled him that the NATO bombing strikes plainly designed to kill Muammar Gaddafi did not constitute “hostilities.” Thus, an ironic distinction between Obama and his predecessor: George W. Bush used military power to force a Middle Eastern tyrant from power with congressional authorization, while Barack Obama uses military power to force a Middle Eastern tyrant from power without congressional authorization.  Good thing he pocketed that Nobel early in the game.

But Obama doesn’t always disagree with George W. Bush. In fact, he doesn’t often disagree with him. Consider the following:

  • In May, President Obama signed a four-year extension of the Patriot Act, including its most contentious provisions: the roving wiretaps, the “lone wolf” section that gives the feds permission to investigate foreigners with no clear affiliation with terror organizations, and the so-called “library provision,” which opens the personal records of terror suspects to federal inspection. During the Bush years, members of the Seattle City Council suggested that local libraries post warnings that patron’s records were now subject to search by the federal government. This time, not a peep of protest from anyone at City Hall.
  • When bin Laden was put down in Abbottabad, the action was taken without notifying the Pakistanis or any other nation. It was as unilateral as an operation can get (which is probably why is succeeded). The White House emphasized that if bin Laden had surrendered, he would have been taken alive. Anyone believe that? Three people were in bin Laden’s room. None were armed; only bin Laden was killed. There was little confusion about what to do with his body. President Obama and Democrats have joined Republicans in heaping praise on Navy Seal Team VI, part of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) which carried out the raid. A couple of years ago, JSOC was dubbed “Cheney’s Death Squad” by Sy Hersh and other anti-Bush journalists.
  • When Gen. David Petraeus defended the Iraq “surge” strategy in front of Congress three years ago, he was denounced as “General Betray-Us” in left-leaning newspaper ads.  Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton said she didn’t trust him. Sen. Obama said the surge Petraeus designed was doomed to fail. Today, Gen. Petraeus is the president’s nominee to head the CIA. Who changed? Not Petraeus.
  • Speaking of Iraq, President Obama essentially adopted both the strategy and the timeline of the Bush administration in place of his own to draw down American troops and responsibilities.
  • But in Afghanistan, “the Good War,” he sent thousands more troops than Bush to replicate the successful “surge” policy in Iraq. After some initial success, the mission has bogged down, and the president announced that he will draw down more than 30,000 troops before the election. Perhaps a light footprint there was the smart move all along?
  • There will be no civilian trial in Manhattan for Khalid Sheik Mohammad, reputed mastermind of 9/11. Instead, he will be tried by a military tribunal at — guess where — Guantanamo Bay, which remains open despite repeated promises and early attempts by President Obama to close it. Progressive protesters here and abroad have gone mute. Cindy Sheehan is still out there; but now that her targets are Nancy Pelosi and the Obama administration, the media have lost interest. So have most other voices in the Democratic Party and the left in general. And where’s Sy Hersh? The Democratic establishment has been tamed. Obama will not lose his liberal base, as President Lyndon B. Johnson did over Vietnam in 1967 and ’68.

Back to bin Laden. His take-down was a stellar operation which the president deserves credit for approving. And it reveals the illusory “alliance” we have with Pakistan. But we now know it likely wouldn’t have happened without the use of “enhanced interrogation” (low-level torture) that led us to the identity of the courier, who led us to bin Laden’s compound nestled in the Pakistani military town of Abbotabad. As Michael Barone pointed out, “You may remember that many Democrats called for criminal prosecutions of CIA interrogators who were acting under orders vetted by legal counsel. Attorney General Eric Holder actually considered bringing such prosecutions.” As with Gitmo and Khalid Sheik Mohammad, Holder has done an about-face.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 6:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Bla bla bla. Bla bla bla. You going to vote for him, John? Thought not.

ivan

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 9:29 a.m. Inappropriate

"All this raises a question for honest progressives everywhere: If Gitmo, JSOC, unilateral military action, and the Patriot Act amounted to a “constitutional crisis” three years ago, what do they constitute today? "

Total betrayal of my vote: Hence I will be actively working during the primary to get a different candidate on the ballot.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 10:08 a.m. Inappropriate

Mr. Carlson's acknowledgement of Barack the Betrayer as not just a closet Republican but an all-time master of the Big Lie -- "the president's rhetoric remains as lofty, eloquent and progressive as it did when he was a candidate three years ago" -- suggests the perfect solution to the 2012 election farce.

The Republicans nominate Obama, the Democrats nominate him too, both parties proclaim him the National Unity Candidate, then drop their silly two-party pretense and formally merge.

Perhaps -- to help compel the electorate to vote (rather than sullenly abstain) -- the new organization could drop the old Republican and Democrat labels and call itself something appropriately exciting: the National Solidarity Direct Action Party, NSDAP or NAZ-DAP for short.

The oceans of money saved by the Ruling Class as a result would go, of course, to further increasing executive salaries and payoffs to politicians...

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 10:24 a.m. Inappropriate

Bush has convictions. He was consistent. We knew where he stood.

Obama hasn't a clue what to do other than run for re-election. Promises are just promises - he doesn't really expect people to hold him to them. Obama's all over the board with his actions and shows very little consistency. We don't really know where he stands because he doesn't have core convictions. That may be because he is a Progressive who so wants to change everything but doesn't really know to what.

And Obama's actions show he HATES being in the White House. He leaves at every opportunity - perhaps he feels caged, or perhaps he prefers campaigning rather than serving. He is like the Caesar who constantly is waging war to expand the empire but is seldom in Rome. He's in it for the glory but meanwhile is bankrupting us.

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 11:09 a.m. Inappropriate

This article repeats the highly dubious argument of Bush administration figures that torture led to the successful Bin Laden mission. There are huge holes in that claim and it's been denied by national security officials.
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20063366-503544.html
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/05/bin-laden-and-torture.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/asia/02reconstruct-capture-osama-bin-laden.html?hp

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 12:35 p.m. Inappropriate

I like partisanism. It ensures the minority's opinion is heard. The problem is that the minority is most often screaming about WHO is doing things, not if they are good or bad.

Admit it to yourself John, you agree with most of these actions, but disagree with WHO did them. How can we come together as a nation when we base our arguments on WHO did something, rather than if it is the right thing to do?

Brian_253

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 12:50 p.m. Inappropriate

It all goes to demonstrate that when those on the left complain about abuses of government power, what they really detest is a Republican at the controls of the monster. The monster is just great; but keep the GOP away from its controls.

The problem is that the monster exists at all; but there's no hope in trying to convince self-styled "progressives" of that. They want to care for and nurture and grow the monster. Then, if a Republican comes to power, they hate him for being at the controls of their beloved monster. To them, it's all about personality of the man or woman at the wheel.

But to many of us, it's about the monster.

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 1:24 p.m. Inappropriate

"those on the left complain about abuses of government power, what they really detest is a Republican at the controls of the monster"

Sorry, when I complain about the abuses of government power, I mean that it's a problem when the government abuses it's power.

I don't care who is in the white house, the patriot act IMO is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. It never should have passed, it should have been struck down by the supreme court, no telephone company should be immune from civil lawsuits, no librarian should be forbidden to speak out against it's unwarranted use.

The bombing of Libya is a war, and since 90 days have passed, it's a violation of the war powers act. In this case congress should impeach.

Torture is torture, and a war crime. Those responsible should have been hauled off the Hague. That's Rumsfield, Chenny and Bush Jr. The criminal prosecution that was started in Spain should have been left alone to run it's course.

GaryP

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 1:50 p.m. Inappropriate

That was a sweeping generalization on my part. I should have said "...when many on the left..."

dbreneman

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 2:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Sweeping generalization indeed: more like a malicious fable. I don't know anybody on the (real) Left who fits dbreneman's original description. When we mobilize against abuses of power, what we "really detest" are the abusers. No matter whether they are Republican or Democrat, tycoon or politician, banker or bureaucrat, our grievance is their tyranny, not their title or affiliation.

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 3:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Now that we're engaged in Libya, I think Obama should get another Nobel Peace Prize.

Posted Wed, Jul 13, 7:15 p.m. Inappropriate

I'm happy with Obama being left of center on budget, wars, etc. He's doing well on passenger rail. I'd go further on climate but that's a tough one to get through.

mhays

Posted Thu, Jul 14, 3:55 p.m. Inappropriate

Obama's a centrist. No one who voted for him who had a working brain thought any differently. However, if I have a choice between a centrist and a Tea Party rightist (and there's no Republican "candidate" so far who isn't), I'll certainly take the centrist. I did in 2008; I will in 2012.

What Carlson is saying, basically, is: "So he's doing what we did. And you thought he was going to be different. Nyahnyah." Very mature.

sarah90

Posted Sat, Jul 16, 7:37 a.m. Inappropriate

Try as he may, John Carlson will never be able to get out of his partisan mode. His claim that Obama = Bush III is so laughable that it needs no more comment. As Sarah pointed out, MOST of us who voted for candidate Obama in 2008 understood clearly that we were voting for a centrist Democrat. and guess what? Centrist Democrats are the ones who win national elections, despite the whining and hollering from the far left who continue to claim they have been "betrayed" by the President and who also imagine that they were the ones who elected him in the first place.

TaylorB1

Posted Sat, Jul 16, 11:51 a.m. Inappropriate

So is John Carlson going to vote for President Obama? What is exactly the point? President Obama is actively drawing down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan President Bush did neither.

Also there were strong reactions from the left to President Obama getting America involved with Libya. However President Obama did not start the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. Holding President Obama's feet to the fire over the slow withdrawal from the wars is like blaming President Obama for the slow recovery from President Bush's Great Recession.

I would personally preferred the more politically experienced Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for President, but even John McCain understood whoever received the Presidency from George Bush was receiving a huge mess domestically and internationally.

2cents

Posted Sat, Jul 16, 2:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Sarah and Taylorb1's evasiveness is comical. There is no Democrat anywhere who thought Obama would mimic Bush's approach to the War on Terror. I asked "honest progressives" - which apparently don't apply to Sarah and Taylor, to ask why the Patriot Act, JSOC, unilateral military action, etc. was a "constitutional crisis" under Bush, but not under Obama. Neither addressed the question with logic, reason or depth, except to say that policies called "criminal" under Bush are now evidence of being a "centrist". Their discomfort in confronting this reality is understandable.

2cents, on the other hand, is simply uninformed. Bush was drawing down troops in Iraq throughout '08, and Obama adopted Bush's timetable for withdrawl in place of his own. As for Afghanistan, Obama is now drawing down troops after DRAMATICALLY INCREASING THEM far beyond the numbers sent there by his predecessor. That 2cents was apparently ignorant of this rather obvious fact may explain the economic illiteracy implied in blaming everything wrong on today's sorry economy on a presidency that ended 30 months ago.

Posted Sat, Jul 16, 7:24 p.m. Inappropriate

I voted for Obama with the understanding that he was what used to be a centrist. However, the Republicans (particularly the Tea Party wing) have done a good job shifting politics that formerly right positions now appear centrist. Positions held by Nixon and Reagan are now portrayed as left positions.

In my opinion, Obama has been a HUGE disappointment. He has gone back on a significant number of campaign promises that lead me to vote for him. It hurts, but I have to agree with John Carlson.

Too bad that the Republicans continue to shift even further to the right, making it even more unlikely that I would vote for a Republican.

Posted Sun, Jul 17, 7:27 a.m. Inappropriate

Carlson Wrote:
"...explain the economic illiteracy implied in blaming everything wrong on today's sorry economy on a presidency that ended 30 months ago."

Okay, John. I'll bite. Let's hear your version of economic literacy.

Bella

Posted Sun, Jul 17, 1:53 p.m. Inappropriate

Hi Bella,

In a sentence: Obama's policies, which resulted in the federal government now borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends, made a bad situation worse. Details about how to dig out of it in my next piece.

Posted Sun, Jul 17, 4:42 p.m. Inappropriate

Hi, John. In a sentence: Classic strawman argument, John.

Bella

Posted Tue, Jul 19, 7:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Bella,

And the strawman is ???????????

Posted Sun, Oct 2, 3:39 p.m. Inappropriate

Obama should have been channeling Scoop Jackson while he figured out who he wanted to be. It would have provided him with some cover from tea bag and right wing flack while he pursued his domestic agenda. And it may turn out that that’s who he is anyway.

jmrolls

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