Daily Archives: January 20, 2009

Why Bush is not Putin

Over the past several years, whenever I have written about the slow (and sometimes not so slow) destruction of freedom in Russia, my responses have invariably included comments that boiled down to, “Well, how is that different from what Bush/Cheney are doing to this country?” Here’s a 2007 blogpost along the same lines. The “Bush is as bad as Putin” trope also pops up quite frequently in various forums and comments sections of websites; sometimes, the trop is, “Putin isn’t nearly as bad as Bush” (see, for instance, the last comment here).

So, now that we are nearing the moment when we won’t have Bush to kick around anymore, I offer you a list of a few things that would have had to happen for Bush to be remotely like Putin.

  • Shortly after September 11, Bush pushes through a constitutional amendment abolishing direct elections of governors and Senators, for nebulous “national security” reasons. They are now appointed by the administration.
  • All the news networks except for one or two small stations are taken over by Bush cronies and turned into Fox News clones.
  • Several politicians and journalists critical of Bush are murdered. Their killers are never found. Commenting on the murder of one journalist and speculation that she may have been killed on government orders, Bush dismissively comments, “We had no reason to kill her — her death has done much more harm to the country than her writings.”
  • After George Soros announces his plans to finance a movement to defeat Bush in the next election, he is jailed on trumped-up charges of tax fraud and repeatedly denied parole on technicalities. Most of his wealth is confiscated.
  • Due to the manipulation of election laws, after 2004 both houses of Congress are more than 70 percent Republican. Most of the remaining seats are held by the Conservative Party, the Right to Life Party, and Democrats loyal to Bush.
  • In 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both disqualified from running for office due to alleged irregularities in the documents they filed to be certified as candidates. Bush’s handpicked successor, Dick Cheney, runs against Al Sharpton and and Ralph Nader and handily defeats them.

And that, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Of course, to say that Bush is better than Putin is faint praise, and besides, even an American Putin would have found his ability to wreak havoc on democracy constained by our political system. But the point isn’t that Bush is so great; it’s that the comparisons to Putin are so specious.

1 Comment

Filed under George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin

My take on the Bush legacy and the Obama transition

The paradox of George W. Bush.

4 Comments

Filed under Barack Obama, George W. Bush

Some pre-inaugural thoughts

No, I’m not suggesting that everyone has to join the Obama worship. Criticism, in a democracy, is a healthy thing (pardon the cliché). But some of the conservative sniping is silly or downright ridiculous (dear Lord, not the “Bill Ayers ghosted Obama’s memoir!” story again), and some seems rather premature (this piece assumes that Obama will be a big-government guy, but Larry Kudlow points out that 40% of his proposed stimulus package now consists of tax cuts). Conservative guru Richard Viguerie is quoted as saying that the inauguration is no big deal: “we can be happy that we’ve taken another step in the racial progress, but I just am not about race, quite frankly.” And he puts up this quote on the “news from the front” on his website. Way to win friends and influence people. Can you say “tone-deaf”?

But there’s some pretty silly Obamania out there, too. See, for instance, this letter posted by Andrew Sullivan on his blog:

I remember with Bill Clinton, he had way of making people feel they were “the only person in the room:” and that they “mattered to him” as many articles during his tenure claimed. But what Obama seems to have is the ability not to appear as if he is acting, faking it. … [H]e is not a faker, not a schmoozer, not a dolt, not a skirt-chaser, not a charlatan, etc. etc. Obama has the realness that comes from the hard psychological work that it takes to really get to know yourself and come out on the other side unafraid of whatever might come your way.

And how does the letter-writer know that? Intuition? So far, Obama has done a pretty oustanding job of being all things to most people. I would say he’s a pretty impressive schmoozer all right. I’m sure he has genuine convictions, but I think he’ll have to be tested much more before we can truly judge his sincerity. Sometimes, “the ability not to appear as if you’re acting” is the best acting of all.

With that, of course, I wish Obama well. And frankly, whether he has that “realness” or not and whether he has completed that fearless journey of self-knowledge is not my first concern. He’s been elected president, not spiritual leader; and while moral leadership is often a part of the president’s role, especially in troubled times, his actual policy-shaping decisions count for more.

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Filed under Barack Obama