George W. Obama?

Washington has spent the past couple of weeks debating whether Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda and political strategy are more comparable to those of Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan. Oddly, hardly anyone is talking about the ways in which Obama is beginning to resemble the man who just vacated the White House.

By Jackson Deihl
The Washington Post
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Most Americans are eager to forget about George W. Bush. But just over seven years ago, Bush found himself in much the same position as the new president today — leading the country through what was universally considered a national emergency. In the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, Bush’s approval rating soared above 80 percent at home. London, Berlin and even Moscow rallied behind him. A front-page analysis in The Post in late November said that “President Bush [has] a dominance over American government . . . rivaling even Franklin D. Roosevelt’s command.”

U.S. President Barack Obama attends the Columbus Police graduation ... 
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Then, according to today’s established wisdom, Bush squandered his chance to lead. Three cardinal errors are commonly cited: The president failed to ask a willing nation for sacrifice, instead inviting consumers to shop and heaping on more tax cuts. Rather than forge a bipartisan response to the crisis, he used it to ram through big, polarizing pieces of the Republican Party’s ideological agenda — from asserting presidential powers to breach treaties to eliminating protections for federal workers. Worst, he chose to launch a war of choice in Iraq, thereby shredding what remained of post-Sept. 11 national unity and diverting attention and resources from the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

That brings us to the first weeks of the Obama administration, set against the background of a scary and steadily deepening global economic crisis. Last month, in his first address to Congress, Obama warned the country that fixing the huge problems in the financial markets and housing and auto industries would require a historic effort. “None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy,” he said. “But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.”

Minutes later, Obama spelled out what he proposes this to mean for 98 percent of Americans: “You will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime. In fact, the recovery plan provides a tax cut . . . and these checks are on the way.”

So much for summoning the country to sacrifice. Obama has been no more willing to ask average Americans to pitch in, even once the recession is over, than Bush.

What about bipartisanship? Like Bush, Obama offered a few early gestures. And like Bush, he has been unapologetic about using emergency measures like the stimulus bill to press polarizing Democratic priorities, such as the expansion of Medicaid benefits to the unemployed and union-friendly contracting provisions.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/c
ontent/article/2009/03/06/AR20090306
01328.html?sub=AR

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