Victor Davis Hanson

There was the same obsession with, but misreading of, Bush in foreign affairs. The public was turned off by the violence and costs in Iraq -- but otherwise not especially concerned about Bush's largely traditional foreign policy or his anti-terrorism protocols. Too bad a Bush-obsessed Obama was again blind to that simple fact. So when Iraq became largely quiet as Obama entered office, the entire "Bush did it" refrain was rendered obsolete and should have been dropped.

The antiwar Obama had campaigned on closing Guantanamo, ending tribunals and renditions, and critiquing the Patriot Act and Predator drone attacks. But once Iraq was taken out of the equation, Obama quickly discovered that these old bogeymen Bush policies were both useful and relatively popular. So he was forced to keep or expand them. Obama's flip-flop only confused Americans: Why, in hypocritical fashion, was he now embracing the Bush legacy that he used to constantly demonize?

When Obama tried to chart a new and much-heralded "reset-button" foreign policy in loud opposition to Bush's, the irony continued. Most Americans did not want to try the accused architect of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a civilian court, replete with legal gymnastics. They did not think that announcing artificial deadlines for troop withdrawals in wartime was an especially bright idea.

They also did not expect that the much-heralded antidote to Bush's swagger and "Dead or Alive" Texanisms would include bowing to Saudi princes and Chinese dictators, apologizing abroad for America's purported sins, or spreading mythologies about the Islamic world's contribution to the Western Renaissance and Enlightenment.

Just because Bush turned off Europe over Iraq did not mean that an "I'm not Bush" Obama could not turn it off even more by printing billions of dollars, urging European countries to borrow more in reckless American style, and downplaying old alliances with everyone from Britain to Poland.

So here is a polite suggestion for President Obama: After nearly two years of governance, free up your own policies to either succeed or fail on their own merits without chaining them to the Bush past. In a word: Let go of a now-smiling and relatively rehabilitated Bush -- before such a fixation consumes you and your presidency.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.