A Wyoming, Minnesota, billboard juxtaposes a picture of former President George W. Bush, sporting one of his signature goofy smiles, with a caption that reads: Miss Me Yet?
The point of the anonymous businessmen who paid for the ad seems obvious enough: After a year enduring President Barack Obama, doesnt it make you almost fond for ole Bush 43?
Short answer: No. Not even for a nanosecond.
At the outset, let me state unequivocally that Mr. Bush has been an exemplary former president. He hasnt carped at his replacement, hes been respectful, and even helpful when called upon. Thats to his credit.
But as for re-experiencing the Bush presidency, no [choose your own expletive] thanks. In fact, sometimes I wonder if the Bush presidency is over yet — many of his policies remain. While W personally performed a gentlemanly two-step back to Crawford, Texas, his policies did not.
Before you start making a list of new policies advanced by Obama that are frightening in their own right, please stand down. I get it. Im with you. An apt axiom for government and the next administration is: It can always get worse.
But let it never be forgotten that when it comes to government borrowing billions to splurge in supposedly stimulating fashion, or bailing out sectors of the economy, Obama can only be accused of following Bushs lead to even greater fervor and magnitude. My argument isnt new, of course, more than a year ago Michele Malkin accused the outgoing president of pre-socializing the economy for Obama.
Did someone say socialist? Obama just told Business Week that the people in his administration are fierce advocates for a thriving, dynamic free market. What chutzpah! I chuckled; nursed a guffaw. And then I remembered Bushs claim to be a free-market guy, as he pushed a government bailout of the car companies.
Surely, when it comes to civil liberties, the national security state, privacy and the rule of law, Obama would be different than the man he claimed to be preventing from a third term (through the political incarnation of Mr. Bush in the body of Sen. John McCain, of course). These werent Mr. Bushs best subjects. Under George W. Bush, an American citizen, Jose Padilla, was arrested without charge and denied his legal rights. There were those thorny issues of secret prisons, rendition and torture. And the Bush Administration began a mass surveillance program of American citizens through warrantless wiretapping.
But while the Bush Administration was colluding with telecommunications companies, such as AT&T, to eavesdrop on American citizens without any evidence of wrongdoing and devoid of any judicial check, Senator Obama provided necessary cover, voting in favor of retroactive immunity to those same telecom corporations and to permit such warrantless surveillance.
Oh, sure, during the campaign Obama attacked the Bush folks for invoking the legal tool known as the state secrets privilege more than any other previous administration to get cases thrown out of civil court. But now as president, the Obama Department of Justice makes those same arguments. In fact, in Jewel v. NSA, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is suing, on behalf of citizens to force the government to obey wiretapping and privacy laws. The Obama Administration has sought to prevent a court from looking into the complaint, insisting that state secrets will be revealed and that the government enjoys sovereign immunity from such lawsuits.
Last month, a federal judge in California threw out the case, writing that a citizen may not gain standing by claiming a right to have government follow the law. The judge advised that a political complaint — say, all citizens being spied on or ripped off by their so-called representatives — should be dealt with in the political process, not a judicial one.
The judge may have something of a point. Only, with the two major-party presidential candidates agreed on allowing the executive branch and telecom companies to break the law and eavesdrop on citizens, what political option is there?
Do we miss Mr. Bush yet? No, not at all. To paraphrase the title of The Huntingtons great rock song, How Can I Miss You If Your Policies Wont Go Away?
But there is one thing we do, indeed, miss: Real choice in politics.