Bush policies still alive in Obama White House

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“The president responsibly ended a war in Iraq and intensified our focus on the important work of defeating al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” she said in an email. “Rather than pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach, the Obama administration relies on flexibility and precision, applying the right tools in the right way and under the right circumstances to ensure the outcome furthers our national security interests.”

The increased use of drones provoked an outcry among libertarians and liberals in Congress this spring during the confirmation of CIA Director John O. Brennan about the need for clearer guidelines in the drone war. Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, filibustered Mr. Brennan’s nomination until Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. stated that drones could not be used to kill noncombatant U.S. citizens on American soil.

Hawks, meanwhile, applauded Mr. Obama’s aggressive pursuit of the Bush drone policy.

“People are astonished that President Obama is doing many of the things that President Bush did,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican. “I’m not astonished. I congratulate him for having the good judgment to understand we’re at war.”

Terrorism cases

Yet Mr. Obama has taken a softer approach toward the handling of captured terrorism suspects such as 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a Boston Marathon bombing suspect who has been charged in federal court instead of being treated as an enemy combatant, as some conservatives have urged.

Mr. Carney said the administration had no choice because Tsarnaev is a U.S. citizen, and said hundreds of terrorism suspects have been prosecuted successfully in civilian courts since 2001.

Some critics accuse the Obama administration of downplaying the role of Islamist radicalization in attacks on U.S. soil, saying the FBI is turning a blind eye to religious motivations. For example, the Obama administration has labeled as “workplace violence” the attack by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009 that killed 13 people and wounded 30 others, despite emails linking the Muslim major to leading al Qaeda figures.

Other Obama terrorism policies invite comparisons to Mr. Bush, but some have major differences. Both presidents have tried unsuccessfully to close the detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The center opened during the Bush administration, and Mr. Obama campaigned on a pledge to shut it down.

The Obama administration issued a secret legal memo authorizing the killings of American terrorism suspects overseas, which some compared to the Bush administration’s legal memo justifying harsh interrogation techniques. As a candidate for president, Mr. Obama criticized Mr. Bush for “an unacceptable abuse of power.”

Mr. Obama came into office pledging to end the war in Iraq, which he did, and to withdraw troops gradually from Afghanistan, which he also is doing. But he did order a troop surge in Afghanistan in 2009, which brought more comparisons to the surge that Mr. Bush ordered in Iraq in 2007.

The foreign-policy crisis in which Mr. Obama probably differs most from Mr. Bush is in Syria. As he has worked to end two wars, Mr. Obama has resisted all calls to send troops or military aid to help anti-government rebels fighting the Damascus regime of Bashar Assad in the 2-year-old civil war. Instead, the president has focused on providing humanitarian aid for refugees and has exerted diplomatic pressure to try to force Mr. Assad to step down.

“He’s clearly trying to be the anti-Bush,” Mr. Feaver said.

Domestic similarities

Domestically, there are a few parallels between Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush. Both have presided over a dramatic increase in the national debt, though the rise has been steeper under Mr. Obama. As a candidate, Mr. Obama said Mr. Bush was “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” for borrowing so much.

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