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Blaming Bush — Enough Yet?

Victor Davis Hanson detects a lessening of the Blame Bush fetish that has gripped the Obami. Why? He postulates:

Two reasons: 1) Obama has copied Bush on almost all the anti-terrorism protocols that worked, such as tribunals, renditions, Patriot Act, Iraq, Afghanistan, Predators, wiretaps and intercepts. And to the extent he has not — a trial for KSM in New York, a witch hunt against the former CIA interrogators, Miranda rights for the would-be Christmas Day bomber, proposed closing of Guantanamo — the people wonder: what in the hell is this guy doing? 2) Obama turned Bush’s misdemeanors, like deficits, borrowing, and new government programs, into felonies. So in comparison, Bush doesn’t look quite so bad now: next time Obama plays the “Bush Did it” card, the public will think either “Thank God” or “Yeah, but not as badly as you did”.

I’m not so confident that the Bush blaming is over, though Hanson aptly explains why it should be. And there are other reasons why Obama should abandon this tactic.

In addition to the grounds Hanson lists, there is another, more fundamental reason why Obama should stop: it’s embarrassing. It simply reinforces the meme that Obama isn’t very presidential. Petulant? Certainly. Condescending? Definitely. But presidential – meaning above-the fray, decisive, appealing to the better angels of our nature, and careful to use only the best and most accurate data? Hardly.

George W. Bush’s utter lack of criticism of Obama (to the frustration of many conservatives and loyal members of his administration) simply reinforces the smallness of the current Oval Office occupant. Perhaps Bush’s criticism would have fallen on deaf ears because the public was not yet ready to hear from him. But whatever the motive for the silence, it has certainly reinforced the contrast between the two presidents: one has moved on, and the other repeatedly evokes the past to excuse and justify his own shortcomings.

Finally, Obama ran as the transformational president who would sweep aside the past and conduct business in a whole new way. By blaming Bush, he is admitting that he has been spectacularly unsuccessful in changing much of anything. He in essence concedes by blaming Bush that he is trapped in the third Bush term. But the least changey thing a president can do is blame others, especially when he enjoys large congressional majorities and a more forgiving mainstream media than most presidents encounter.

We’ll see if Hanson is right and if Obama gives up the Bush fixation. But if he does, who will he blame for the crummy state of his presidency? Maybe a staff shake-up is in order.



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