September 1, 2010

LEARNING FROM HIS BETTER:

As Obama Struggles, Bush's Legacy Recovers (John Dickerson, 9/01/10, Slate)

The relevant similarity between the federal response to Katrina and the BP oil spill (other than geography) is that both show the limits of the presidency and the federal government. Of course, a hurricane is different from an oil spill, and it's not necessary, for the purposes of comparison, to pass judgment on Bush's or Obama's response. The point is that from a purely logistical standpoint, it's hard to get the federal bureaucracy to move quickly. That's true whether you think the president is uniquely incompetent or a smart manager. A president weighing the benefits and costs of making a visit to the disaster area can catch similar grief for not taking command whether they're photographed in a plane or on a basketball court. And even an eloquent speaker can sound the wrong note.

On Tuesday night, President Obama will give a prime time address about Iraq as his predecessor did several times. [...]

Yet Obama's announcement Tuesday would not be possible were it not for a strategy that he adamantly opposed. When Bush announced the surge in January 2007, then-Sen. Obama not only fought the increase in troops, he opposed on more than one occasion the underlying approach (already in practice in Iraq) that the new troops were being sent to pursue.

Sen. Obama not only expected the surge to fail; he saw it, incorrectly, as yet another example of Bush's inability to adapt to reality. President Obama, at least, does not face that criticism. He has based his strategy in Afghanistan on the same counterinsurgency strategy that was central to Bush's surge. He's done more than borrow his predecessor's strategy--he's also borrowing his language.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at September 1, 2010 6:09 PM
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