All of us recall our early tenure in a new employment position, the struggles that ensued as we grappled with the myriad duties while delicately negotiating our way through political mine fields. If the department we inherited was in disarray we found ourselves shaking our heads and casting a cold eye on our predecessor, while telling our supervisors about the mess he left.There is only so much a new President can blame on his predecessor. The fact is that circumstances have changed in the past five months for Obama.
But, if we're completely honest, we also recall that with the passage of time, we became progressively reticent to invoke the ghost of our predecessors because we intuitively--and correctly--sensed it would irritate our bosses. They understandably have little sympathy for our plight because we were being paid to do a job, so all they wanted was results.
If you've been paying attention to the narrative of Bush blaming emanating from the White House since President Obama's inauguration, you probably sense that it's wearing thin among the electorate. But when David Axelrod, Obama's senior adviser, protests that the newly minted administration isn't in fact, blaming Bush, that they're only cautioning the public that the profound nature of the problems will require time, that too has the ring of the querulous employee who still doesn't appreciate the nature of his charge.
- He nows owns the deficit in a way that the Bush Administration never could. Yes, Bush pushed through the TARP bill and other "emergency aid" that arguable might have been necessary or not. But since that time, Obama has piled on the national debt, with car company bailouts and purchases, more bank money, and now plans to expand national health care to the tune of $1 trillion dollars. If Bush spent $800 billion, Obama has spent, conservatively, three times that amount. The deficit is Obama's now and he can't escape it.
- Obama owns the war. True, we haven't heard as much about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as we did in the months leading up to the election and inauguration, but Obama has now taken, roughly, the same position as the Bush Administration on the prosecution of the wars in the Middle East. One could argue that Obama continued the policies for a short time until he could come up with his own plan. But today, a special operations general has taken command in Afghanistan and one wonders if the Afghanistan plan will look anything like Gen. Petraeus's "surge" operation in Iraq. If the two plans are even remotely similar, it will be a vindication, rather than a repudiation, of the Bush Administration strategy. How can you blame someone for bad judgment when you adopt their strategy and tactics.
- The world has changed and Obama must respond. Iraq, North Korea, Taliban resurgence, piracy, changes in the EU, etc. These are not matters that the Bush Administration had to face, at least not in their current form. Obama must formulate his own responses and quite frankly, I am worried not about his responses, but the lack of immediate response. For example, when it comes to North Korea, there has been no real response.
- Obama has no Congress to blame. Congress is on a run-away train of Obama agenda items. Even when Congress goes beyond what Obama wants, does Obama have the gumption to veto anything as too extreme? I think not and in that instance Obama must take ownership of what Congress has done--he can't cop to gridlock and he can't cop to overexuberance.