‘George W. Obama’? Not Quite

The jab is an easy out if you're trashing the president over the NSA scandal, but it doesn't fit.

President Obama and former President George W. Bush in Dallas (Getty Images)
President Obama and former President George W. Bush in Dallas (Getty Images)

The president’s only “carrying out Bush’s fourth term” if you think there’s no difference between someone who authorized waterboarding and someone who banned it. And he’s only mimicking his predecessor if you think there’s no difference between the guy who responded to 9/11 by invading Iraq and a guy who ended the war there on time, and with a measure of dignity, while opponents like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pressed him to stay longer.

Yes, Obama has clearly flip-flopped on domestic surveillance, since his NSA still carries out exactly the kind of “fishing expedition” that then-Sen. Obama railed against back in 2005. But for conservatives to interpret this as some sort of post hoc vindication of the Bush era — or for liberals to take it as a wholesale reversal by the guy they’ve voted twice to put into office — is to misread the character of the people we elevate to the presidency.

Obama is no Bush, but they share at least one trait that applies to nearly anyone who has held the office of president: Both men aspire to the cliché “He kept us safe” — and neither is particularly invested in making a new cliché out of “He protected our privacy.”

David Swerdlick is a contributing editor at The Root. Follow him on Twitter.

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