Continuity We Can Believe In
There are some definite shifts to the left in Obama’s governance, as well as some symbolic or even real gestures toward centrist pragmatism on issues like the environment and abortion. But the general thrust can broadly be seen as hyper-interventionist. Although some depredations under Obama have picked up their pace and some under Bush have been slightly curbed, there is also a staggering continuity from the Bush years in some areas where some voters might have not expected it.
The economic policy of borrowing/inflating and injecting a trillion dollars into the economy at a time is continuing, with new speed and a greater number of special interests on the dole. The nationalizations and subsidies persist and the power continues to move toward central administration.
The medical marijuana raids Obama promised he’d stop continue. After giving no comment, the administration now says they will be stopped, so perhaps this is momentum from the last administration and there’s at least the possibility the policy will end. But I wouldn’t count on it.
Bush’s “faith-based” initiatives, which drew sharp dissent from the left, will now be expanded and elevated by Obama’s new “Office of Faith-Based Initiatives,” a new official council to the White House.
Under the new president, there are hints we might see more reliance on “extraordinary renditioning,” perhaps the most barbaric and troubling program in the Bush anti-terror detention policy. The surveillance state built by Bush will remain and no one will be held accountable.
Obama’s cabinet and advisers comprise establishment picks across the board. A former high Fed official in charge of the Treasury. A member of America’s dynastic ruling elite in charge of the State Department. The same Defense Secretary we had under Bush.
On Iran, the new administration is keeping all options on the table, just as Bush did: Which means the U.S. is prepared to go to war with Iran with the supposed goal of protecting Israel.
On Afghanistan, Obama does not only want to expand Bush’s first war and turn it into a nation-building project as ambitious as and more doomed to fail than Bush’s Iraq enterprise, but Obama’s short-term solution seems to be to just send tens of thousands more troops.
In Pakistan, Obama has continued the Bush policy of bombing people (actually, a policy he supported before Bush began carrying it out in earnest).
Yes, for better and worse there are changes. But I wonder how fitting it will be years from now to refer to these times as the Bush/Obama era.