Overlooking the change

OVERLOOKING THE CHANGE…. Most of the criticism directed towards President Obama involves his willingness to break with the recent past. His willingness to embrace change and deliver on campaign promises has led to complaints about the White House being “radical.”

Wearing his contrarian hat today, the Washington Post‘s Jackson Diehl argues that the president is too much like his predecessor. (The headline reads, “George W. Obama?”)

For example, as Diehl sees it, Obama, like Bush, isn’t calling on Americans to “sacrifice.” This is, on its face, an odd argument — the nation is in the midst of a deep and painful recession. At last count, 4.4. million Americans have lost their job during the downturn, and one in seven homes are now vacant. I’m going to go out on a limb here and argue that Americans have already “sacrificed” quite a bit. Obama is supposed to make things harder on the country, to avoid resembling his predecessor?

[S]urely, you say, he’s planning nothing as divisive or as risky as the Iraq war? Well, that’s where the health-care plan comes in: a $634 billion (to begin) “historic commitment,” as Obama calls it, that (like the removal of Saddam Hussein) has lurked in the background of the national agenda for years. We know from the Clinton administration that any attempt to create a national health-care system will touch off an enormous domestic battle, inside and outside Congress. If anything, Obama has raised the stakes by proposing no funding source other than higher taxes on wealthy Americans, allowing Republicans to raise the cries of “socialism” and “class warfare.”

Just as Bush promoted tax cuts as a remedy for surplus and then later as essential in a time of deficits, so Obama has come up with strained arguments as to why health-care reform, which he supported before the economic collapse, turns out to be essential to recovery.

This is really weak. For one thing, the comparison is silly — a deadly and costly war that should have never been fought bears no resemblance to health care reform. For another, the policy dispute over health care probably will “touch off an enormous domestic battle,” but that doesn’t make the idea Bush-like — Obama is delivering on the platform on which he campaigned. By Diehl’s logic, any president that proposes any kind of ambitious policy proposal is reminiscent of our failed 43rd president.

Diehl concludes that the notion of health care reform and economic growth being interconnected is “strained.” Why? Because he says so, facts notwithstanding.

I can appreciate why editors find these pieces appealing — if everyone is saying Obama is different from Bush, someone has to argue how similar they are — but there’s really no point in contrarianism for contrarianism’s sake.