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Obama Makes Two Bush Errors

Right after the election, I pledged to criticize President Obama if I thought he wasn’t carrying out good policies, just as I often criticized President Bush when I thought he wasn’t living up to our country’s professed values.

Today, I read a blog entry in the Washington Post (Obama to Europe: No More Excuses) by Dan Froomkin which I think documents two “Bush errors” made by Obama.

Error 1 – Making uncharitable assumptions about people who won’t do your will.

President Obama told a European audience that with the pending closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and the abandonment of torture by the United States, Europeans had no more excuses not to participate in the war in Afghanistan. He’s quoted as saying:

“So we are going to conduct our operations in a way that reflect our best selves and make sure that we are proud. And that, in turn, will allow the Europeans, I think, to feel good about our joint efforts, and also not to have excuses not to participate in those joint efforts. All right?”

Excuses? That’s why the Europeans won’t come? I don’t think that these particular “excuses” ever existed considering Gitmo wasn’t holding prisoners when we invaded in 2001. Maybe the Europeans have different methods of fighting terrorism. Perhaps they’ve consider the British and Russian failures to pacify Afghanistan and concluded they don’t want to be part of another failed occupation. Maybe they don’t trust Pakistan not to shelter Taliban militants. Perhaps they don’t hold to the Obama Administration’s ideas about negotiating with so-called moderate Taliban.

All of the above reasons are solid reasons for not leaping to US assistance in a war that was launched unilaterally by the United States. I even think it was launched in our interests for good reasons. But that doesn’t automatically make it Europe’s war. Instead of dismissing their reasonable concerns as excuses, the President should be finding out 1) Why NATO countries don’t think war in Afghanistan is the answer to defeating al-Qaeda and 2) Challenge them to come up with an alternative approach to fighting terrorism.

Error 2 – “If you don’t agree with me, then you think terrorism has ceased”

One of the most absolutely teeth-grindingly frustrating things about the Bush Administration since 2002 and the McCain campaign in 2008 was their insistence that if you didn’t support the President’s war policies, then you didn’t think that terrorism was a threat. This is one reason that I voted for Obama because his campaign lacked this rhetoric. So it is very sad and somewhat anger producing to read this quote from President Obama:

“I think that it is important for Europe to understand that even though I’m now President and George Bush is no longer President, al Qaeda is still a threat, and that we cannot pretend somehow that because Barack Hussein Obama got elected as President, suddenly everything is going to be okay.”

Who on Planet Earth believed that al-Qaeda would immediately close up shop upon the election of Barack Obama? For him to say his audience believes that is insulting. Just as insulting as when President Bush claimed that people opposed to his warantless surveillance program “didn’t realize” that people were still plotting to kill us.

Hopefully this second mistake was just a hiccup as President Obama has had a long history of assuming that people agree on what problems exist, if not the methods to solve them. However, if this is a new outlook brought on by the power of the presidency, it will be a negative factor when I consider my vote in 2012. We don’t need more of the same.

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2 Responses

  1. I see your point, but it’s too early to make these kind of judgments. These early days of any administration don’t count much. We can observe the direction of where they’re headed. That’s fair. But I think we still need to wait a while. Let’s go on a prolonged vacation, then come back and see where things stand.

  2. Hi Fred,

    Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that it’s too early to judge “The Administration”, but I don’t think it’s too early for pointing out incidents before they become ingrained practices. I still have good hopes for President Obama.

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