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Andrew Sullivan is Right: Obama Has Governed as a Conservative

Sullivan took Obama's critics to task for not recognizing his accomplishments--sadly, those accomplishments only appeal to "conservative-minded independents" like him.

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Sullivan gives credit to Obama for tracking down Osama bin Laden, but fails to ask why a kill order was issued, when clearly the unarmed bin Laden could have been captured and brought back for trial.  But Sullivan does not appear bothered by that or the summary executions, often of innocent people, caused by the expanded drone wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan which have fueled Islamic extremism in the most dangerous country on earth.

Sullivan credits Obama for leaving Iraq, despite the fact that the withdrawal was negotiated by President Bush, not Obama, despite the fact that the Obama Administration worked mightily to extend the occupation past the agreed departure date and despite the fact that the only reason the U.S. is finally withdrawing is that the Iraqi Parliament refused to continue to grant immunity to U.S. troops for crimes committed on Iraq soil.  In a nutshell, despite running as an anti-Iraq War candidate, Obama surrounded himself with national security advisors who all had supported the invasion of Iraq, including his Secretaries of State and Defense, and his policies and performance in Iraq have not been different in any significant way from Bush/Cheney.

Sullivan also points out that Obama ignored “the war crimes of the recent past,” which Sullivan deplores.

Sullivan acknowledges that, “Not only did he [Obama] agree not to sunset the Bush tax cuts for his entire first term, he has aggressively lowered taxes on most Americans.”  Obama’s decision to continue the Bush tax cuts for the rich was extremely unpopular; in fact, a December 3, 2010 CBS News poll showed that only 26% of voters believed tax cuts should be extended to people making more than $250,000 a year and these tax cuts for people who have done extremely well in a bad economy are projected to cost $800 billion. Surely, Sullivan argues, Obama deserves credit from conservatives for those big-ticket giveaways, especially to the rich; in fact, he argues, “You could easily make the case that Obama has been far more fiscally conservative than his predecessor….”  But Sullivan fails to acknowledge the fiscal consequence of such fiscal conservatism and continued tax giveaways---a major reduction in federal tax revenues.  As a consequence of these and other tax short-falls, Obama was the first Democratic President in American history to put on the table for negotiations with Republicans major reductions in Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid---concessions sure to thrill and delight conservatives.

So, yes, Mr. Sullivan, you have convinced me.  Obama has governed as a conservative.  Progressives might want to take note.

Guy T. Saperstein is a past president of the Sierra Club Foundation; previously, he was one of the National Law Journal’s "100 Most Influential Lawyers in America."

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