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Obama's Role Model Is... Bush?

Author: Peter Beinart
January 8, 2009
The Daily Beast


Who says George W. Bush doesn't have a positive legacy? Sure, his record on health care, education, the environment, the deficit, financial oversight, human rights, disaster response, judicial appointments, counterterrorism, governmental transparency and basic syntax leaves something to be desired. But politically, there's a lot to admire. And one of the admirers, it appears, is his successor, the guy who will take office in a couple of weeks.

Think about Barack Obama's moves since winning the presidency: Rick Warren is doing the inaugural invocation, Bush holdover Robert Gates is staying put at Defense, McCain buddy James Jones is taking over at the NSC, netroots scourge Hillary Clinton is in charge at State, Reaganite hero Paul Volcker has a big economic job. On election night, Obama will host a ball for members of the military, to be broadcast to bases around the world. When the G-20 came to town last November, Obama sent a Republican as one of his emissaries. At every turn, he is attaching himself to symbols of moderation and bipartisanship.

Bush surrounded himself with centrist props, all the while pushing a brazen right-wing agenda.

All this is straight out of the Bush playbook. It's hard to remember now, but when Bush took office in 2001, he did a lot of ideological cross-dressing. In his first two weeks, he invited Ted Kennedy to the White House five times, including for a movie night. He brought then-House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt a surprise birthday cake. He became fast friends with House Democratic Congressman George Miller, who he began calling "Big George." He spoke frequently about his commitment to fighting poverty and helping minorities. And the press commented on the moderation of many of his cabinet choices, including EPA Head Christine Whitman, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin Powell.


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