Archive for the ‘administration’ Category

Team Obama preoccupied with Bush

January 31, 2009

You’d hardly know George W. Bush is spending his days relaxing down in Texas. It feels like he’s still right here in Washington, given the current president’s almost daily repudiation of his predecessor’s policies.

By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent

It’s not that you hear Barack Obama uttering Bush’s name, and aides are loathe to bring up Bush directly, except in private.

But there are plenty of signs that Team Obama is more than a little preoccupied with Bush — with avoiding his mistakes, reversing his policies in a daily drumbeat of events, and with getting as much political mileage as possible from coded but clear shots at the unpopular ex-president.

In Week One, Obama overturned Bush policies on funding for international family planning groups and detaining and questioning suspected terrorists; set up strict ethics rules for his administration; declared diplomacy the new emphasis for U.S. foreign policy; and signaled he was serious about ending the war in Iraq that Bush began.

In Week Two, Obama reversed Bush by moving to allow states to establish tougher standards than the federal ones on car exhaust; pledged greater urgency for the U.S. role in Mideast peacemaking; reached out to the billion-strong Muslim community that has been wary of the U.S.; cheered Congress for nearing completion of a children’s health insurance expansion that Bush vetoed twice; signed an equal pay bill previously blocked by Bush and congressional Republicans; and undid Bush administration policies he said have favored employers over workers.

Each action was accompanied by rhetoric: “a clean break,” “not going to continue with a false choice between our security and our ideals,” “a new era of American leadership,” “days of Washington dragging its heels are over,” “when I say progress, not just photo-ops but progress that is concrete,” “reverse many of the policies toward organized labor that we’ve seen these last eight years.”

What better way for Obama to demonstrate to the public that he’s turning into reality that “change” theme from his campaign than to make his first couple of weeks in office nearly entirely about a sharp U-turn from all things Bush?

“Yes, Bush is unpopular. But he’s unpopular because the policies weren’t right,” said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. “What people want a change from is not theoretical.”

The page-turning started right away, with Obama’s inaugural address.

He talked repeatedly of restoring this and returning to that and proclaimed “the time has come to set aside childish things” — all notably sharp words, especially considering that Bush was sitting right there in the front row. (Bush, ever the politician who appreciates skilled politics in others, whispered to Emanuel afterward that he thought the speech was great.)

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