Published for www.washingtonpost.com, May 31, 2012
When Barack Obama hosts George W. Bush at the White House today for the unveiling of Bush’s presidential portrait, the 44th president will have to find something nice to say about the 43rd. Perhaps Obama could point out that the two men’s counterterrorism policies are virtually indistinguishable — except in the liberal reaction to them.
Take this week’s New York Times report on Obama’s drone war. Imagine the outcry that would have erupted on the left if the Times had reported that during his time in office, Bush was personally selecting “every new name on an expanding ‘kill list’” of terrorists to be vaporized? Imagine if the Times had described White House officials boasting about how Bush “approves lethal action without handwringing,” or how Bush had told aides that the decision to kill an American citizen with a drone was an “easy one”? Imagine if the Times had revealed that Karl Rove, “the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings” each week in the Situation Room where decisions were made as to who would live or die?
There would be bonfires burning in Lafayette Park.
So the absence of outrage was palpable when the Times reported such details about Barack Obama’s drone campaign against al-Qaeda. Consider some of the Times revelations:
●When he issued executive orders shutting down CIA interrogations and Guantanamo Bay, Obama “without showing his hand” performed a “deft insertion of some wiggle words” that created “subtle loopholes . . .carving out the maximum amount of maneuvering room to fight the war on terror as he saw fit.”