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Self-Defeating Self-Defence

March 18, 2009

You probably heard that Obama called the New York Times from the Oval Office, after he had given them an interview,  in order to give a second answer to the question whether he was a socialist. During the interview he had reacted by saying: “You know, let’s take a look at the budget – the answer would be no.”, and when prompted to say more he went on to explain how “fiscally responsible” his budget is, yadayada.

The French Cowboy thinks that, while there could be better ones, there’s nothing wrong with this answer. I happen to disagree with Obama’s interpretation of his proposed budget, but the President’s answer per se is a good one. He refutes the notion that he is a socialist and tries to back it up with a look at the factual budget plan. Nothing wrong with this from a debate point of view. That Obama had second thoughts on his answer and felt compelled to call the NYT less than 90 minutes after the interview to ‘clarify’ is odd. Especially so because his second answer is downright disastrous:

“I did think it might be useful to point out that it wasn’t under me that we started buying a bunch of shares of banks. It wasn’t on my watch. And it wasn’t on my watch that we passed a massive new entitlement -– the prescription drug plan — without a source of funding. And so I think it’s important just to note when you start hearing folks throw these words around that we’ve actually been operating in a way that has been entirely consistent with free-market principles and that some of the same folks who are throwing the word ‘socialist’ around can’t say the same.”

Looks like the President just can’t control his Bush-hating, Republicans-hating inner school-yard kid. Oh, but the French Cowboy is jumping to conclusions here. After all when the NYT asked, “So whose watch are we talking about here?”, “Obama wouldn’t name names.” So Obama just can’t control his ‘unnamed watchman who is more socialist than Obama’-hating, ‘some folks’-hating inner school-yard kid.

Actually, it is quite unlikely that Obama is alluding to Bush and the Republicans in his answer. Because in comparison to Bush’s economic policies Obama is definitely ‘more of the same’ – much, much more of the same, actually, which, the French Cowboy tends to think, makes it something else entirely, even if that seems paradoxical. To back up my argument, let’s have a look at Monsieur Obama’s budget – just as he has suggested – and compare it to President Bush’s numbers:

  • President Bush expanded the federal budget by a historic $700 billion through 2008. President Obama would add another $1 trillion.[3]
  • President Bush began a string of expensive finan­cial bailouts. President Obama is accelerating that course.[4]
  • President Bush created a Medicare drug entitle­ment that will cost an estimated $800 billion in its first decade. President Obama has proposed a $634 billion down payment on a new govern­ment health care fund.
  • President Bush increased federal education spending 58 percent faster than inflation. Presi­dent Obama would double it.[5]
  • President Bush became the first President to spend 3 percent of GDP on federal antipoverty programs. President Obama has already in­creased this spending by 20 percent.[6]
  • President Bush tilted the income tax burden more toward upper-income taxpayers. President Obama would continue that trend.[7]

Maybe Obama realised that his budget proposal isn’t the best evidence to refute the accusation of him being a socialist. But recurring to the petty bushdidit defence/offence again and again is such a self-defeating tactic that it makes you wonder whether the new President wants to sabotage himself.

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