Everyone should know by now that the next president will continue the Bush legacy.
Sure, both Obama and McCain are running on a platform of changing Washington. They both distance themselves from the last eight years of governance.
But what exactly is the Bush legacy? It is the continuation of the Clinton legacy, but with even greater reliance on power and more disdain for freedom. It is huge and expanding government. It comprises a growing, bellicose warfare state; a spying, lying police state; and handouts for Wall Street, for homeowners, for farmers, for the elderly and for so many others in between.
And both candidates promise more yet.
In foreign affairs, McCain might be a bit worse, but both are hyper-interventionists. Obama wants to get some of America’s forces out of Iraq a little sooner, and in fact has been boasting that Bush now favors essentially the same timetable for withdrawal — in effect saying he and Bush are on the same page. Four years ago, Obama famously said, "There’s not much of a difference between my position on Iraq and George Bush’s position at this stage." And he has voted to fund the war ever since he landed his gig in the Senate.
McCain is probably more likely to start war with Iran, and this is their most significant difference, maybe even a reason to favor Obama. War with Iran is not a minor issue. But even on this, we cannot predict who would be worse. Both have been quite belligerent toward the Persians, supporting more draconian sanctions and adopting the AIPAC line that Iran cannot have nuclear weapons lest it destroy Israel and then America.
On the rest of global policy, it might as well be a wash. They both want a bigger military. Neither is for reducing America’s evil nuclear stockpile. Both believe the draft is unnecessary right now, but neither is opposed on principle. Obama sounds even more hawkish on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and "humanitarian" warfare, and accuses McCain of being all talk in his scary posturing on Russia. "We can’t just provide moral support," says Obama:
We’ve got to provide moral support to the Poles and Estonia and Latvia and all of the nations that were former Soviet satellites. But we’ve also got to provide them with financial and concrete assistance to help rebuild their economies. Georgia in particular is now on the brink of enormous economic challenges. And some say that that’s what Putin intended in the first place.
The other thing we have to do, though, is we’ve got to see around the corners. We’ve got to anticipate some of these problems ahead of time.
Sounds like a preemptive approach to me!
On economic policy, maybe McCain is marginally better, but probably not. He even said he’d consider hiring Warren Buffet, Obama’s supporter, as Treasury secretary. Both candidates supported Bush’s bailout — the largest and most significant intervention into the market in many, many years. McCain supports a mortgage plan he stole from Hillary Clinton, which even Obama has criticized for being too reckless. On monetary policy in general, they are the same. Both promise ever more regulation of the finance sector. Neither will undo Bush’s economic program, only build upon it.
They both claim to want to cut most people’s taxes a little while increasing spending a lot and balancing the budget. Hah. On energy, both are for broad subsidies to a large range of sectors and for eventually obtaining “energy independence" — a sort of quasi-autarkist goal talked up by the last half dozen presidents. That includes Bush.
On health care, both are terrible but Obama might be a little worse. Obama wants to aggrandize Bush’s faith-based initiatives. McCain would probably do the same. Both want more spending on education. Obama is a moderate in that he backs charter schools and merit-based pay. McCain is for vouchers. Hallelujah.
Even on the hot buttons there is not much difference. They are in Bush’s ballpark here too: Both oppose gay marriage. Both support "reasonable" gun control while paying lip service to the Second Amendment. They are both moderates on immigration. Both will keep abortion mostly legal, but believe in some state restrictions, such as on late-term abortions.
They disagree on the science of global warming, but McCain nevertheless agrees with Obama (and Bush) that the government needs to do more to stop it.
On the huge issues that are traditionally neglected, like prison reform, the militarization of domestic police, and the drug war, both are silent. Both of them are for maintaining Social Security and Medicare. Bush expanded Medicare and attempted to "privatize" Social Security, which was just a trick to preserve government’s enormous involvement in forced savings and retirement welfare.
Both candidates are for campaign finance reform. Bush signed it into law.
Both are for preserving virtually everything the government does. McCain thinks earmarks, which are half a percent of the budget, need reform. Obama also spends lots of time talking about relatively trivial amounts of the federal slush fund.
Both McCain and Obama want to continue nearly everything Bush has done, while adding their own pet projects on top of it.
Neither proposes to abolish anything.
It would be nice to have some "change" or a "maverick" to really shake things up. But under either McCain or Obama, we can probably expect the government to grow, the wars to continue, the police state to bulge, spending to increase, and not much to change for the better. Nothing major Bush has done will be truly undone.
I want both candidates to lose, but McCain more. But who knows? Ironically, as a Republican, McCain will feel more pressure and less resistance to enact big government at home (even Bush’s outlandish government growth has been attacked as "laissez-faire" by the left). Obama will be under more pressure to prove himself internationally (although a warmonger, he is absurdly called a "peacenik" and "appeaser" by the right) and his wars will meet less dissent from the left. Obama will have a friendly Congress, but bipartisanship goes a long way too. The dynamics of American politics always render such predictions about essentially similar candidates futile. They are both going to continue Bush’s general policies, but we have no way of knowing who would actually be worse.
Given that we will have four more years of Bush anyway, I prefer we keep the real Dubya around. He is distrusted by the masses, an embarrassment to his own party, exhausted from his stint and largely impotent. McCain or Obama will have a mandate. Another genuine Bush term would probably be much less effective — i.e., destructive to liberty and peace.
Too bad we have that 22nd Amendment. Too bad we have elections. At this point, I agree with Bush: Given that we are going to have a dictator, I think it would be a heck of a lot easier on all of us to keep him on the job.
Anthony Gregory [send him mail] is a writer and musician who lives in Berkeley, California. He is a research analyst at the Independent Institute. See his webpage for more articles and personal information.