By: Daniel Faris –
Since the founding of the United States, only 43 men have risen through the political ranks and earned the title of President. Barack Obama is the 44th President – while Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President.
Though the leaders of the free world tend to inherit drastically different political circumstances from their predecessors, historians can’t help but compare the sitting president, whoever he (or she) may be, and compare that person to those who held the position before – living or dead.
When President Obama was elected in 2008, historians scrambled to make comparisons:
- “Obama is like Kennedy because he speaks impassionedly, is relatively young, and is a charismatic leader.”
- “Obama is like Lincoln because he rose from relative obscurity and is becoming our country’s leader at a pivotal moment in time.”
- “Obama is like FDR because he’s inheriting a government on the precipice of economic collapse.”
But fast-forward to 2014, and some of those comparisons might have changed:
- “Obama is like Bush II, only worse, because we’ve killed countless civilians under his reign. That’s not to mention how the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency both seem to have far surpassed their bounds.”
- “Obama is like Jimmy Carter, only worse. He is ineffectual, can’t build consensus, and worse yet, we’ve had him for two terms.”
- “Obama is like James Buchanan, only worse. Like Buchanan, he’s not done much to bridge the gap between the races in this country. Problem is, it’s 2014 and Obama is our first African American president. As such, he really could have played a substantial role in bringing people together. Instead, he chimes in on these issues, playing the race game as well as anyone (e.g.: “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”)
So, Answer the Question: Who is Obama Most Like?
You could argue that Obama, like all of his predecessors, are just combinations of the men who held the office before them. After all, Obama inherited lots of messes from previous presidents.
Social Security, for example, was signed into law by FDR. It’s pretty apparent that the whole program is in serious need of modification – to the tune of $220 trillion – but Obama has yet to do anything about it, much like his predecessors. He’ll be out of office soon enough, leaving whoever else takes his place to deal with the mess (or more likely kick it down the line once more.)
There are certainly convincing arguments that can be made when comparing Obama to everyone from Franklin Pierce to William Henry Harrison, but for the record, the president that Obama most resembles is his direct predecessor: George W. Bush.
And that’s funny, because, generally speaking, those who loathed Bush love Obama, just as those who loved Bush loathe Obama.
Don’t agree? Well, then, consider the following:
Civil liberties are shredded each day. Sure, the NSA and CIA’s new policies and tactics may very well trace their origins back to the Bush administration – or perhaps even earlier. That doesn’t mean Obama can wash his hands of the mess. In fact, one would expect a principled Obama – the guy we came to know on the campaign trail in 2008 – would find out about programs like domestic spying and immediately work to shut them down.
But, instead, since Obama’s been president, Americans can now be lawfully detained for an unlimited amount of time without charges being filed. It’s possible that many progressives who support Obama aren’t even aware of that inconvenient detail.
War is the new peace. Candidate Obama promised to end the wars his predecessor started in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring our troops back home. Since then, President Obama has repeatedly pushed back the date for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. He withdrew troops from Iraq, but subsequently the country fell into utter chaos thanks to the rise of ISIS.
As a result, Obama okayed jet strikes in Iraq once again, and now boots are on the ground. Then there’s also Libya, airstrikes in Yemen, and Obama’s failed proposal to act tough in Syria. The anti-war candidate has proven repeatedly that he actually believes missiles are mightier than the pen, much like his predecessor.
Deceit is the new truth. “We’re going to close Guantanamo Bay.” “We’re going to show you the bills on whitehouse.gov for five days prior to voting on them so that you can weigh in and let us know your thoughts.” “This is going to be the most transparent administration ever.” “Well, I just found out about that story the same time that you did.”
The past four sentences seem like refrains of sorts from the Obama administration, and each of them have proven to be flat-out lies. It seems as though, whenever Obama opens his mouth, there’s a good chance what he’s saying is not true, or at best, perhaps a half-truth. Maybe he learned that skill from his predecessor, too.
The spending is out of control. Just when you thought no president could spend more money than Bush II, in comes Obama. Some studies peg the 44th president as the biggest spender in the history of the world. With round after round of quantitative easing at the Federal Reserve – the process of essentially printing money out of thin air – it’s a wonder that our society is still propped up on the backs of dollar bills. Bush spent tons of money as well, which makes this not only one more way Obama is following in Bush’s footsteps, but also one more area where we’re still waiting on Obama’s Hope and Change®.
There’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to trying to figure out which president Obama is most like, but I’m pretty convinced Bush II is worthy of serious consideration.
Daniel Faris is a graduate of the Writers Institute at Susquehanna University and a current resident of Harrisburg, PA. When he’s not blogging about politics at Only Slightly Biased, you can find his alter ego discussing progressive music over at New Music Friday.