21 March 2013

Obama = Bush Jr??? (hint: the answer is no)

Almost exactly 4 years after I wrote the last article I reposted, on Obama targeting off-shore tax-shelters, I over heard a couple people I'm close to agreeing that, while he gives good speeches, "Obama is really not that different from Bush in policy, and in some ways he's worse", which of course I've heard plenty of times before, generally from folk on the far liberal / leftist / socialist leaning side of politics (which, given where I live, is a lot of folk).

That's not really the sort of comment that will lead to a productive debate in real time, even if I did have a plethora of facts to drop off the top of my head, so I just held my tongue for the moment.

Here on my blog I have time to think through my response, and an easy way to cite references, so here goes...

We all were hoping for "change" to be dramatic.  Even though we should have known better, we kept imagining that "change" was meant to imply "revolution".  When we realized that the term would be preceded by "incremental"*, our dreams were deflated. 
I get it.  I really do.  Because I am one of those radical liberal lefty socialists.

But, here's the thing: He was elected President.  He was not elected Jesus.**  The President of the United States has a lot of power, but they don't act in a vacuum.  He doesn't even get to write the law.  Congress does that, and congress is split fairly evenly between right-wing Christian conservative, economically libertarian extremist Republicans, and socially moderate pro-corporate Democrats.

And despite what living in the Bay Area allows us to fantasize, the American people themselves are mostly split between the same two camps, which is why congress looks the way it does.

The other thing to remember is that Obama never claimed to represent everything you personally stand-for, what ever that may be.  He never even met you.  He never claimed he was going to end corporate personhood, or dismantle the US military, or return to the 90% top tax brackets of the 1940s.  He never said he would eliminate all US carbon emissions or ban all handguns. 
So it really isn't reasonable to hold him to those standards.

What he has done is those things which he said were his goals all along (so far as he has had the power to do so).
For example, he never said he would bring all US troops home.  What he did say is that he would take troops out of Iraq, and focus on the "global war on terror" and Al Qaeda, and that is exactly what he did.  Way back in 2001 we knew that the attacks on America were carried out by Saudi Arabian expats who had moved to Afghanistan to train - and Bush Jr used the fact that those countries are in the general region of "the Middle East" as an excuse to continue his dad's oil war in Iraq, which had zero to do with bringing down the twin towers.
But while in increasing the troops in Afghanistan was Obama keeping his word, at the same time, the number brought home from Iraq is larger than the number sent to Afghanistan, which means the grand total number of troops deployed has gone down overall under Obama.


He has said the number in Afghanistan will be reduced rather quickly as well, and there isn't much reason to doubt it, given that all his past time tables have been stuck to so far.

Simply removing all troops, all at once, was never realistic, and would very possibly do more harm than good.
Bush Jr started two wars.  Obama has ended one, and is working on ending the other.  That is not the same.  That is not worse.  It is the exact opposite.

Here's a few comments on his domestic policies:


And here is a really long list of things he did, just in his first term, (all with references, in case you don't believe it).

If you skip every other link in this post, at least click on this one, and skim through it.

Things which he has not just attempted to do, but successfully done.  Almost all of which Jr would not only not have done, but would not have even claimed to want to do.
Pretty much all 212 items in that list from the link above are things which are totally opposite what Bush did or would have done.

So there's that.
And for some people, it still leaves them feeling like he should be doing more.

You want to know why he hasn't done even more?

Instead of just reading, listening, and talking to articles, radio, and people that share your politics, you have to pay attention to what the other half of the country is saying.

There is a whole lot of insight there to be found, if you look for it.

The other side is just as mad at him - but generally for completely opposite reasons.  They already think he is a socialist who is destroying America by being anti-business, anti-oil, anti-religion... The things they hate him for include the very accomplishments we ignore when claiming he hasn't done anything positive.  Here's some examples, from a conservative anti-Obama site:

Obstructing oil drilling, restricting corporations, moving in the direction of national health care, spending tax money to encourage job growth, separating church from state.  Terrible, right?

Here's a much broader perspective, still from a conservative point of view, but with references, and at least a half-hearted attempt at impartiality:


This is what he has to balance against your personal ideals.

This is why he was elected, and you and I and all of our friends were not.  Because we do not represent the American people.  Maybe we should, but we don't. 
Obama is on our side.  He is also moderate enough that he was able to get elected, so that he could get all the stuff done that he has.  Stuff that Bush didn't do, and McCain or Romney would never have done.

All that said.

There is certainly a lack of meaningful difference between the two major political parties on a variety of significant issues.  This goes not just for Presidents and presidential candidates, it goes for congress, judges, governors, mayors, pretty much everyone with power in America.

A good list of examples is given by bvar22:

"*The Failed War on Drugs
*The Privatization of our Commons
*The support for Right Wing Death Squad governments in Latin America
and the demonization of the emerging populist true Democracies
*The Patriot Act and the marginalization of The Constitution
*The Use of our military to make the World safe for predation by the Global Corporations (AKA: The Permanent War on "Terror")
*The extra-constitutional perpetual War Time Powers of the Unitary Executive
*Forcing the American Working Class to compete with Slave Labor for their jobs (AKA: Free Trade, AKA:Race to the bottom)
*professed belief and religious submission to an "Invisible Hand" for which no proof exists.
*The militarization and national co-ordination of our local Police Departments
*Submission of the US Government and Legal System to Wall Street Banks
*The protection of the predatory For Profit Health Insurance Corporations
(Wall Street's Incestuous 1st Cousin)
*Austerity, "Entitlements", and "The Deficit"
(There IS some daylight between the Parties here,
but NOT on the Political Position,
only on HOW MUCH we are going to give the Already Rich.
*Lack of support for locally owned businesses in the War against the Big Boxes
(There ARE existing Fair Competition Laws & Regulations that could be used)
*The For Profit Private Prison Industrial Complex
*The Privatization of our Public Schools
*The Privatization of our Military
(Armed "Private" Contractors...AKA:Mercenaries)
*Subsidies for the Richest Corporations in The World"
 And others on that site add a few more:

But again, notice: Obama ran as a Democrat.  Not a Socialist.  Not Green Party.  Not Labor Party.  The entire democratic party accepts the premise of capitalism, and protecting America's interests abroad. 
That doesn't mean there aren't significant and meaningful differences between the two parties.  It just means that they don't have all of the differences we would prefer.

Given those two choices, the blue side is the closer one to where we need to be.  We can debate all day about whether its close enough, whether incremental change should be replaced with revolution, but the fact remains that there is a difference between the coalition of Christian fundamentalism and libertarian capitalists that make up the right and the moderate socially liberal pro-corporate left.

Throwing up our hands and crying "its not perfect, therefore its pointless" just helps things move even further to the right, as Republicans continue to vote, and we give up because its futile.
Lets continue pushing for more radical change, yes, but there is no reason we can't celebrate the incremental changes that come along the way.

*I would give credit to the person from whom I borrowed that line, except that I have no idea who it was!
** That one too!!


  1. While I have swung back & forth re Obama and continue to have mixed feelings about him, I want to point out that when some people accuse Obama of being as bad or worse than Bush, it is regarding things like increasing the military budget way beyond what Bush did, increasing US spying on everyone way beyond what Bush did, renewing the "war on drugs" with all its terrible impact, and making very conservative choices in appointees, for example, Attorney General Eric Holder who is so pro-drug-war that he fought the D.C. City Council in an effort to impose harsh mandatory minimums for marijuana possession.
    If Obama had been imprisoned like so many others for his early drug use he would not be where he is today. There are many young (mostly black or Latino) men in prison today no more guilty than you, me, or Obama, who are there for no reason other than possession of marijuana or other drugs. You would think Obama would know better, given his own past, and do his best to end this terrible (drug) war, instead of making appointments to appease conservatives or bolster his own career. If Obama is not, on the whole, worse than Bush, he is certainly much more of a disappointment.

  2. " increasing the military budget way beyond what Bush did, "
    only if you ignore the wars in Iraq and Afganistan that Bush Jr Started and Obama ended, (or ignore inflation, or focus only on the first year or two of the Obama administration, and ignore the overall picture):


    "increasing US spying on everyone way beyond what Bush did"
    President Eisenhower was never caught keeping a database of everyone's emails.
    Bush Jr. should not get extra credit just because the technology to spy as effectively didn't exist during his reign either. Leaked documents show the NSA was collecting large amount of data - and also that that data was only actually accessed with probable cause.

    "renewing the "war on drugs" with all its terrible impact"




    " making appointments to appease conservatives"

    He said all along his goal was to build a coalition, to work with both sides of the aisle, and reduce partisanship. Sometimes you get more done with compromise than with fighting.

    "If Obama is not, on the whole, worse than Bush, he is certainly much more of a disappointment."

    Well of course! We had low, if not zero, expectations for Jr., so it was pretty much impossible for him to disappoint!!


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