A thought experiment: If you were to compare Barack Obama to famous American politicians, who would appear in the top ten? Or to approach this another way: How far down the list would George W. Bush appear?
I ask because, as the Ohio and Texas primaries move closer, Hillary Clinton has begun comparing Obama to, of all people, the current president. In a speech yesterday criticizing fliers Obama has been sending out for a little while, Clinton said, "Let's have a real campaign. Enough with the speeches and big rallies and then using tactics that are right out of Karl Rove's playbook." She went on to say that Bush campaigned on a platform of change--she specifically cited his "compassionate conservatism" and said, "He promised change, didn't he? The American people got shafted and we're going to have to make up for it."
While the fliers she's referring to fall somewhere between accurate and misleading, the fliers come nowhere close to Rovian, and she surely knows that. Politically, Obama leans no closer to Bush than Clinton herself, and in some instances, he's further left (to my mind, an absolute plus). But I think it's worth noting the desperation of this comparison, Obama as Bush.
As any sane person has, I've opposed Bush from the beginning, but I've also noticed over time how the mere mention of his name has become an easy in for speakers with left-leaning audiences. Cheap Bush jokes serve as ice breakers, no matter how weak the joke. After a while, that's gotten boring. (NB: I'm not against Bush jokes; I think he should be impeached. To borrow a line from Jerry Seinfeld, I'm offended as a comedian.)
Throughout the campaign, Clinton has referenced Bush and his misdeeds both because she's right that he's been a destructive force, possibly the worst president in history, and because criticizing Bush gets easy applause. So it's sad to hear Clinton trying to compare Obama to Bush. Paul Krugman, who I usually agree with, did the same thing in an embarrassing column a couple of weeks ago, writing, "I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again." The utter ridiculousness of that comparison is reason enough for Krugman to be kept from writing about the campaign until after the primary.
For all of Obama's faults (full disclosure: I'll probably vote for him when my primary comes up), he's no Bush; he's no Rove. Clinton's dire need for primary victories has somehow led her to rhetoric that seems wildly desperate, nothing more than the shallowest attempt to pull in voters who may not know any better.