Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ignoring The Heat

I wrote earlier how Obama is like the son who thinks his father is an idiot until he becomes a father himself, and see how wise his father really was. This is why Obama is keeping so many of things Bush put into place to keep us safe, but Karl Rove at WSJ really lays out how the "campaigner" Obama is governing completely different than he promised:

Barack Obama inherited a set of national-security policies that he rejected during the campaign but now embraces as president. This is a stunning and welcome about-face.

For example, President Obama kept George W. Bush's military tribunals for terror detainees after calling them an "enormous failure" and a "legal black hole." His campaign claimed last summer that "court systems . . . are capable of convicting terrorists." Upon entering office, he found out they aren't.

He insisted in an interview with NBC in 2007 that Congress mandate "consequences" for "a failure to meet various benchmarks and milestones" on aid to Iraq. Earlier this month he fought off legislatively mandated benchmarks in the $97 billion funding bill for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama agreed on April 23 to American Civil Liberties Union demands to release investigative photos of detainee abuse. Now's he reversed himself. Pentagon officials apparently convinced him that releasing the photos would increase the risk to U.S. troops and civilian personnel.

Throughout his presidential campaign, Mr. Obama excoriated Mr. Bush's counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, insisting it could not succeed. Earlier this year, facing increasing violence in Afghanistan, Mr. Obama rejected warnings of a "quagmire" and ordered more troops to that country. He isn't calling it a "surge" but that's what it is. He is applying in Afghanistan the counterinsurgency strategy Mr. Bush used in Iraq.

As a candidate, Mr. Obama promised to end the Iraq war by withdrawing all troops by March 2009. As president, he set a slower pace of drawdown. He has also said he will leave as many as 50,000 Americans troops there.

These reversals are both praiseworthy and evidence that, when it comes to national security, being briefed on terror threats as president is a lot different than placating and Code Pink activists as a candidate. The realities of governing trump the realities of campaigning.

Mr. Obama campaigned on "responsible fiscal policies," arguing in a speech on the Senate floor in 2006 that the "rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy." In his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, he pledged to "go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that no longer work." Even now, he says he'll "cut the deficit . . . by half by the end of his first term in office" and is "rooting out waste and abuse" in the budget.
However, Mr. Obama's fiscally conservative words are betrayed by his liberal actions. He offers an orgy of spending and a bacchanal of debt. His budget plans a 25% increase in the federal government's share of the GDP, a doubling of the national debt in five years, and a near tripling of it in 10 years.

On health care, Mr. Obama's election ads decried "government-run health care" as "extreme," saying it would lead to "higher costs." Now he is promoting a plan that would result in a de facto government-run health-care system. Even the Washington Post questions it, saying, "It is difficult to imagine . . . benefits from a government-run system."

Making adjustments in office is one thing. Constantly governing in direct opposition to what you said as a candidate is something else. Mr. Obama's flip-flops on national security have been wise; on the domestic front, they have been harmful.

In both cases, though, we have learned something about Mr. Obama. What animated him during the campaign is what historian Forrest McDonald once called "the projection of appealing images." All politicians want to project an appealing image. What Mr. McDonald warned against is focusing on this so much that an appealing image "becomes a self-sustaining end unto itself." Such an approach can work in a campaign, as Mr. Obama discovered. But it can also complicate life once elected, as he is finding out.

What I have found talking with people who voted for Obama, but are not political, is they don't really have much of an opinion on national security issues or the emerging big government that Obama is laying before us. They feel that nothing ever really changes no matter who is in power and they just liked Obama. Obama understands this. Which is why he is on TV almost daily just giving his nice soothing spin on things. And as long as the media plays along, we are like the story of the frog boiling in the pot of water. The frog sits in the water while it's cool, and just doesn't notice the heat rising until it's too late and he's boiled.

Hey people, we are being boiled.