For nearly all of his time in office, President George W. Bush was relentlessly and unceasingly lampooned by liberals for the tactics he employed in pursuit of his policy initiatives. Some of these criticisms were fair and some were not – but detractors were always specific in what they deemed reprehensible presidential behavior. With President Obama now at the helm and his agenda very much underway, I can’t help but wonder why the same standard is not being enforced for our new leader. Bush and Obama are more similar in their tactics than almost anyone will acknowledge, but those who criticized Bush with such righteousness appear to find nothing objectionable in Obama’s strikingly similar strategies.

Liberals particularly enjoyed slapping Bush with the “fear-mongering” label: They accused Bush of exploiting the public’s fear of terrorism to pass whatever legislation and institute whatever policy he pleased. Liberals across the board claimed that the USA Patriot Act had congressional and public support only because Bush manipulated a frightened public. Obama, the former presidential candidate of hope and optimism, seems to have taken a page out of Bush’s playbook. Instead of delivering on the bright, hopeful rhetoric that carried his campaign, Obama offered nothing but forecasts of “catastrophe” in defense of the obnoxiously large stimulus bill. This fear mongering in the economic realm was almost indistinguishable from Bush’s alleged fear mongering on national security.

The war in Iraq was deemed by many to be an elaborate diversion. Bush-bashers speculated that Bush took advantage of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and their origins in Afghanistan to pursue what he had really hoped for all along: a war in Iraq. Liberals felt that Bush was being dangerously opportunistic in tying a national crisis to a policy he would have wanted to pursue even if the crisis hadn’t happened.

Obama, once the candidate of openness, honesty and hard-nosed pragmatism, has responded to the latest economic crisis with a $3.6 trillion budget, which includes cap-and-trade energy taxes, massive education reform and steps toward universal healthcare. Thawing the credit markets requires massive reform in environmental protection, education and healthcare? I doubt it. This is no more concrete a connection – no less opportunistic an attempt to enact policy by exploiting a crisis – than Bush’s link from 9/11 to Iraq. As Rahm Emanuel said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” I can only imagine the response if a Bush operative were caught on a hot mic saying the same thing.

Bush was criticized by many for being “divisive.” Liberal critics claimed that he sought to divide the nation and divide the parties by labeling political allies as patriotic defenders of America’s safety and opponents as weak, unpatriotic and unresolved. Obama, his promises of bipartisanship already exposed as completely disingenuous, has followed the very same pattern. The Republicans, many of whom opposed the stimulus bill, have been called the “party of no,” though on each issue they have offered their own alternatives and been snubbed when asking for time to debate. Those who question the ethics of stem cell research have been cast as religious fundamentalists with a medieval understanding of medicine. And somehow, someway, anyone who questions the necessity of education reform and carbon taxes to solve the credit crisis is considered stuck in the politics of the past. It is becoming clear that Obama’s circle of national unity excludes all dissenters.

Karl Rove, the infamous boogeyman of liberal paranoia, was accused constantly of playing politics at times of national crisis and intentionally diverting public attention from the “real issues.” Emanuel and his staff, equal to Rove in political acumen, seem to find this strategy of diverting public attention effective. When Obama was taking a beating for some freshman mistakes, Emanuel and his operatives engaged an active campaign to portray Rush Limbaugh as the head of the GOP, apparently because the talk show host’s poll numbers seemed low.

Americans are still convinced that our new president can do little wrong, but a simple analysis of his time in office so far suggests that he has carried over some of his predecessor’s least popular political ploys. Only one question remains: How long will Obama’s free pass last?

Jeffrey Long is a sophomore in the College. He can be reached at Conscience of a Conservative appears every other Tuesday.

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