- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2008


When someone screams about a terrible policy of the present administration, just pose four questions —

(1) Was the controversial decision taken with bipartisan support?

(2) Were there precedents for such action in prior Democratic administrations?

(3) Will such polices continue under the newly elected Obama administration?

(4) Have the media changed their position on the issue since the November election?

If the answer is yes to these questions, then the acrimony was probably about politics and style, not principle and substance.

Take the so-called war on terror. The Patriot Act passed Congress in October 2001 by majorities in both parties - and was reauthorized in 2006. The original versions of the FISA wiretapping accords were enacted under the Carter administration in 1978.

Both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were given authorization by Congress. The pre-Sept. 11, 2001, precursor for the removal of Saddam Hussein was the unanimous passage of the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act - prompted by then-President Clinton’s warnings about Saddam’s dangerous weapons: “Some day, some way, I guarantee you he’ll use the arsenal.”

President-elect Barack Obama no longer believes the controversial FISA accords should be repealed. And the retention of George Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, along with the impressive appointments of Sen. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state and former Bush Mideast envoy Gen. James L. Jones as national security adviser - all of whom were in favor of removing Saddam - suggest that those who once supported the Iraq war will have more foreign policy influence in the Obama administration than those who opposed it all along.

Talk of a shredded Constitution and the need to immediately shut down Guantanamo Bay are no longer daily fare in the U.S. media - particularly after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Suddenly we have sober reflection about how to stop such a paramilitary attack here in the United States - and what to do about monsters in custody in Guantanamo, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed architect of Sept. 11, 2001.

Like it or not, radical Islamic terrorism antedated George Bush and will continue after him. And while we may lament how Mr. Bush sometimes conducted or articulated his policies, his support for beefing up homeland security, hitting terrorists hard abroad, supporting Democratic movements in the Middle East, and replacing two odious tyrannies with consensual governments once appealed to a broad number of Americans.

Because they are largely sound strategies, they will not change much under a more charismatic President Obama - who for at least a while will enjoy the benefit of the doubt when confronting the same old nasty lose/lose choices.

On the economic front, we can apply the same type of critique to the present meltdown.

The origins of our current mess were threefold: high energy costs, reckless borrowing and skyrocketing housing prices that squeezed family budgets. Promiscuous lending at Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae created undue risks and increased foreclosures. The lack of proper oversight of Wall Street speculation ensured that a ripple of worry soon became a torrent of panic.

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