The argument that the two parties should represent opposed ideals and policies, one, perhaps, of the Right and the other of the Left, is a foolish idea acceptable only to the doctrinaire and academic thinkers. Instead, the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can "throw the rascals out" at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy.- Carrol Quigley, Tragedy and Hope
April 25, 2013
WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite vast differences withon ideology, style and temperament, President has stuck with or aspirations on a number of fronts, from counterterrorism to immigration, from war strategy to the global fight against AIDS.
Even on tax policy, where Bush advocated lower tax rates for all and Obama pushed for higher rates on the rich, Bush's tax cuts for the middle class not only have survived under Obama, they have become permanent.
Obama inherited from his predecessor two military conflicts, a war on terror and a financial crisis. He also inherited, and in time embraced, the means with which to confront them.
On Thursday, Obama will attend the dedication of Bush's presidential library in Texas, a tableau that will draw attention to two distinct men — a Republican and a Democrat from different ends of the political spectrum, political foils with polarized constituencies.
Indeed, Obama ran for president in 2008 as the anti-Bush, critical of the war against Iraq and of the economic policies of the preceding eight years.
But in his more than four years of governing, Obama has also adopted or let stand a series of Bush initiatives, illustrating how the policies of one administration can take hold and how the realities of governing often limit solutions.
Bush's signature education plan, No Child Left Behind, remains the law of the land, though thehas granted states waivers to give them flexibility in meeting performance targets. A Bush Medicare prescription drug plan, criticized for its cost, is now popular with beneficiaries, and Obama has sought to improve it by providing relief for seniors with high bills. Obama continued the unpopular bank bailouts and expanded the auto industry rescue that Bush initiated in 2008.
Bush authorized a military surge in Iraq in an effort to tame the conflict there. Obama completed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq but also authorized a military surge in Afghanistan before beginning a drawdown of troops that is expected to be completed at the end of 2014.
"The responsibilities of office drive presidents toward pragmatism," said Joshua Bolten, a former Bush chief of staff. Where those policies are effective, he added, "the successor has good reason to adopt them."
Obama, like Bush during his presidency, is seeking an overhaul of immigration laws that give 11 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally a chance to get on a path toward citizenship. Bush came up short in 2007, but Bolten believes that six years later the nation and its politicians are in a different place.
"was just ahead of his time and his party in recognizing both the importance of reaching some sort of bipartisan accommodation and on what the elements of that might reasonably be," he said.
Bruce Buchanan, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes on the presidency, says it's not uncommon for presidents to hand off their agendas to another. Even measures or issues that were unpopular under one president can appear different with the passage of time and under the direction of a new occupant in the White House.
"While the names of the problems are the same, the stage of development is usually very different and the public stance of the president dealing with them is often very different," he said. "You have to be sensitive to those things lest you create the false impression that they are mirror images of one another, which I don't think would be accurate."
On no front are the similarities more striking than on counterterrorism. Obama did vow to end the harsh interrogation techniques such as waterboarding that had been employed during the Bush administration, and he issued an executive order upon becoming president declaring that the United States would not engage in torture.
But other practices continued and, in some case, expanded under Obama.
"The basic similarity is these are the only two presidents that have governed in a post-9/11 era, where the principal threat to the United States comes from terrorism," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser. "President Obama believes that we're at war with al-Qaida and its affiliated groups, has continued to take direct action against al-Qaida networks overseas and has continued to pursue very aggressive intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security measures that have been developed since 9/11."
Jack Goldsmith, who was an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel during Bush's first term, says Obama's use of warrantless surveillance, military detentions without trial and increased drone strikes has received less pushback than it would under a Republican president.
Goldsmith, now a law professor at Harvard Law School, argued in a blog post after Obama's election that the public "generally trust the former constitutional law professor and civil liberties champion more than a Republican president to carry out these policies."
He added that "many on the left (in Congress and the NGO community, and perhaps the press) who might otherwise be uncomfortable with these policies will give President Obama a freer hand than they would a Republican president."
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