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POLITICS: White House

Once the anti-Bush, Obama increasingly mirrors his predecessor

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Politics,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama

President Obama, whose path to the White House was paved by being the anti-George W. Bush, will attend the opening of the 43rd president's library in Dallas Thursday, a visit that coincides with a growing willingness of the president to praise his predecessor and embrace his policies.

From the start of his national political career, Obama railed against the Iraq War and Bush's so-called war on terrorism, accusing the Republican of sacrificing American values in the pursuit of security. He said the former Texas governor protected the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, while ushering in the collapse of the U.S. economy.

Months into his second term, however, some analysts said the distinction between Obama and his former Republican foil is increasingly hazy, particularly on issues of national security.

"There have not been any sharp discontinuities between Bush and Obama national security policies; the war on terror continues, by whatever name," said Steven Aftergood, of the Federation of American Scientists. "Secrecy concerning national security operations still prevails, and public accountability is hard to come by."

Obama not only embraced Bush's drone program but expanded it, launching an unparalleled series of covert strikes in Pakistan. Guantanamo Bay, the prison housing terror suspects indefinitely, appears no closer to shuttering despite the president's numerous pledges to do so.

Then-candidate Obama lambasted Bush for overstepping his executive authority but then ceded few, if any, of those powers. Obama has repeatedly sidestepped Congress, unilaterally halting deportations and enhancing carbon-emission standards over the objections of GOP lawmakers who call such moves a power grab.

Obama ended the war in Iraq and is drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan. The White House says such decisions represent a new era in American foreign policy, one in which the public is largely resistant to large-scale commitments overseas.

But even on the domestic front, there's a growing fusion between the duo. Obama's call for immigration reform -- the centerpiece of his second-term agenda -- largely mirrors the blueprint Bush articulated in calling for a pathway to citizenship for those in the U.S. illegally. In fact, Obama has invoked the Bush plan in an attempt to isolate GOP lawmakers resistant to the White House's recommendations.

The similarities between the two presidents are perhaps too striking for the Obama administration. According to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, both Bush and Obama now share a 47 percent approval rating.

Some Bush insiders say that Obama's mimicking of Bush policies serves as validation of the Republican's time in office.

"They did not do a full retreat from Bush policies like Obama promised on the campaign trail," said Matt Schlapp, Bush's former political director. "Whether it was embracing and expanding drones or their failure to close Guantanamo, they faced the reality that there's an enemy who wants to destroy us -- and they realized Obama's rhetoric was unworkable."

At his presidential library opening, Bush will be joined by Obama, George H.W. Bush and former Presidents Carter and Clinton. It represents one of the few occasions the five living U.S. presidents have appeared together.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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Brian Hughes

White House Correspondent
The Washington Examiner