President Barack Obama may go down as the man who gave us at least four more years of George W. Bush. The two men seem alike.
Only one major distinction survives honest scrutiny: Bush gave us anti-abortion Supreme Court nominees; Obama gave us a pro-abortion-rights nominee.
Health care? Sure, Obama federalized it. So what? Bush federalized education. Each imposed central government where it does not belong.
Like Bush, Obama has given us a hawkish, interventionist foreign policy. We remain at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’re bombing Libya.
Before Americans elected Obama, most believed he was different from Bush. He had mostly voted “present” in the Senate, leaving us to imagine he stood for whatever we wanted. His opposition to Iraq was well-known, giving hope to those who want peace.
“The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation,” Obama said in December of 2007.
The foreign policy distinction between Bush and Obama blurred when Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan. It vanished forever when Obama ordered a military attack in Africa, much to the shock and dismay of some in Congress. U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucich — an Ohio Democrat who is possibly the most liberal member of Congress — said last week Obama’s attack on Libya could be an impeachable offense.
Like it or not, Obama was a fervent critic of the Patriot Act. As president, he extended Patriot Act provisions without altering them in the least. He extended warrantless roving wiretaps. He continued government authority to seize records of suspects without their knowledge and to conduct surveillance of individuals with no known ties to terrorists. The Patriot Act was a relic of Bush. Today, Obama owns it.
Before his presidency, Obama was a no-holds-barred critic of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, promising to close it. This month, Obama signed an executive order that creates indefinite detentions at the prison.
As a candidate and senator, Obama opposed Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Last December, he extended them.
The attack on Libya has made clear the fact Americans effectively live under another term of Bush. For arch-liberals, this is no revelation.
Six months earlier, genius philosopher, cognitive scientist and linguist Noam Chomsky — an icon of the left — was asked about Obama’s foreign policy.
“The rhetoric is different,” Chomsky said. “On substance, there is little that is new. Obama has cultivated a style of presenting himself as engaging and friendly, and as a blank slate, on which his audience can write their hopes and wishes, believing, if they choose, that he is ‘on our side.’ The same is true on the domestic scene.”
Government has become so large that our executive branch can no longer do much to steer its course. Good men like Obama, despite all intentions, are controlled by decades-old obligations, debts and foreign entanglements that seem impossible to undo.
Unless we gut the federal bureaucracy — an imposing behemoth our founders tried to prevent — it will function with the grace of a runaway train. It will toss presidents aside, as indistinguishable weaklings. That’s why two years into his presidency, Obama seems a lot like Bush.