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Commentary: Obama and Bush are not so far apart

  • Story Highlights
  • Tara Wall: Obama says a McCain administration would be a Bush third term
  • Yet Obama is in agreement with Bush on many areas of policy, Wall says
  • She says Obama shares Bush's views on some domestic policy and social issues
  • Wall: Affirmative action and capital punishment are two areas of agreement
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By Tara Wall
CNN Contributor
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Editor's note: Tara Wall, deputy editorial page editor and columnist for The Washington Times, serves as a political contributor to CNN. Before joining the newspaper, she was a senior adviser for the Republican National Committee and was appointed a public affairs director in the Department of Health and Human Services by President Bush. Read her columns here.

Tara Wall says there are many policy areas where Barack Obama and President Bush are in agreement.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Since Barack Obama incessantly makes the case that a John McCain administration would equate to another Bush term, it's worth looking at just how much Sen. Obama himself is in agreement with the unpopular president.

Does that mean that he, too, would be a repeat of President Bush? If one were to apply his logic, maybe so.

Here are 20 reasons why:

1. Abstinence: Bush expanded community-based abstinence education during his term, including a $28 million budget increase for 2009 in an effort to "Teach both abstinence and contraception to teens." Obama concurred in April when he said: "We want to make sure that, even as we are teaching responsible sexuality and we are teaching abstinence to children, that we are also making sure that they've got enough understanding about contraception."

2. Affirmative action: Bush said of the 2003 University of Michigan affirmative action case: "I strongly support diversity of all kinds, including racial diversity in higher education. But the method used by the University of Michigan to achieve this important goal is fundamentally flawed" -- because it depended solely on race. Bush has said other factors, such as socioeconomic status, should be considered, which would include poor white students.

Obama now agrees with that view. "Inside Higher Ed" referred in May to "Obama's suggestion that he may be ready to change the focus of affirmative action policies in higher education -- away from race to economic class. ... In his debate in Philadelphia with Hillary Clinton, he said in response to a question, that his own privileged daughters do not deserve affirmative action preferences, and that working-class students of all colors do."

3. Budgets: Obama voted for Bush's budgets, which included 19 spending bills.

4. Capital punishment: Like Bush, Obama supports capital punishment. He spoke out in opposition to the recent Supreme Court decision that denied the death penalty for child rapists. And in his 2006 memoir, Obama said, "I believe there are some crimes -- mass murder, the rape and murder of a child -- so heinous that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment."

5. Education: Obama supports charter schools, as does Bush, and merit pay for teachers, and he voted in favor of supporting the president's 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

6. Economics: Obama told reporters that he agreed with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Bush's bailout package, then voted for the $700 billion plan. And despite routinely criticizing "the Bush tax cuts," Obama is now offering tax cuts of his own (although only for the 95 percent of taxpayers earning less than $250,000 a year). What a concept!

7. Energy: In signing the $12.3 billion Energy Policy Act of 2005, Bush said it "promotes dependable, affordable, and environmentally sound production and distribution of energy for America's future." Obama voted for the energy plan and called it a "first step toward decreasing America's dependence on foreign oil."

8. Faith-based initiatives/fatherhood: Bush is well known for his commitment to the faith-based community -- with initiatives for the poor and on fatherhood -- and he expanded the ability to allow faith-based providers a seat at the funding table. Obama, who has railed against Bush's efforts, has still found a way to embrace them, saying he would "expand" faith-based initiatives. He used his Father's Day speech to echo the president's Fatherhood Initiative.

9. FISA: Of the Senate bill passage that rewrote intelligence laws to grant immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration's wiretapping program, Bush said: "This vital intelligence bill will allow our national security professionals to quickly and effectively monitor the plans of terrorists outside the United States, while respecting the liberties of the American people."

Obama, who supported it, after opposing FISA last year, said: "Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people." Almost identical, huh? Are we sure they don't share the same speechwriter? But Obama did take heat for his change of heart, as The Washington Post reported that: "The Illinois senator's reversal on the issue has angered liberal groups." Guess you can't please everyone.

10. Gay marriage: Both Obama and Bush agree that marriage is and should remain between one man and one woman. As far back as 2004, Obama said: "Gays ... should not marry." And in a 2007 Senate debate, he said: "I agree with most Americans, with Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Cheney, with over 2,000 religious leaders of all different beliefs, that decisions about marriage, as they always have, should be left to the states. ... Personally, I do believe that marriage is between a man and a woman."

11. Global AIDS: Obama has said the U.S. must "lead the global fight against the AIDS virus." And earlier this year, he encouraged lawmakers to "Use whatever works with AIDS, including teaching abstinence." Obama has given Bush kudos for his efforts to combat global AIDS and the record amount of funding ($15 billion over 5 years) the president has earmarked for the fight. Obama said in September, "I think President Bush -- and many of you here today -- have shown real leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS."

12. Health care: While they don't share similar views on universal health care coverage, Bush and Obama agree that the problem with health care is "about affordability" and there is a need to address minority health concerns with more coverage and targeting. That is why Bush expanded community health care centers, covering the uninsured and targeting urban areas, to the tune of $1.5 billion for 1,200 centers "coast to coast."

13. Middle-class tax cuts: While he hasn't voted for such cuts, Obama is pushing his biggest economic initiative yet: tax cuts for the middle class. "We've got to help the middle class," Obama said Tuesday. Perhaps unbeknownst to him, Bush has already been there, done that. In signing the 2001 Tax Cut Bill, Bush said: "Tax relief is an achievement for families struggling to enter the middle class. For hard-working lower-income families, we have cut the bottom rate of federal income tax from 15 percent to 10 percent. We doubled the per-child tax credit to $1,000, and made it refundable. ... Tax relief is an achievement for middle-class families squeezed by high energy prices and credit card debt."

14. Minority homeownership: Obama adopted the Congressional Black Caucus principles "to increase minority homeownership" as it is "one of the best wealth-creation vehicles for minority families." These principles were developed as part of Bush's vision to expand minority homeownership to 5.5 million new homeowners by 2010. "Across our nation, every citizen, regardless of race, creed, color or place of birth, should have the opportunity to become a homeowner," Bush said.

Similar comparisons can be drawn for their positions on small businesses and on businesses owned by women and minorities.

15. National security: Obama voted yes on preauthorizing the much ballyhooed Patriot Act, sought by the Bush administration.

16. Offshore drilling: Bush has consistently pushed for drilling offshore, while Obama, who until recently opposed it, now says he's for it. In Nashville, Tennessee, he told an audience: "We're going to have to explore new ways to get more oil, and that includes offshore drilling."

17. Racial profiling: Obama's campaign literature states that he will call for a ban on racial profiling, even though Bush issued a directive that banned racial profiling in 2001. In his order, Bush said to the attorney general: "I hereby direct you to review the use by federal law enforcement authorities of race as a factor in conducting stops, searches and other investigative procedures. ... I further direct that you report back to me with your findings and recommendations for the improvement of the just and equal administration of our nation's laws."

18. Religion: It is widely known that Obama is a person of faith. He has said: "I am a proud Christian who believes deeply in Jesus Christ." Bush, who shares the same faith, has been just as much, if not more vocal, about his faith. He once told The Washington Times that he doesn't "see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord."

19. Supreme Court ruling on gun ban: Despite his past endorsements of some gun control measures, Obama's reaction to the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutional right of individuals to own handguns mirrors the administration's. Obama now says: "As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms."

20. Welfare reform: An Obama ad this summer said he "passed a law to move people from welfare to work" and "slashed the rolls by 80 percent" (though all states had to as a result of the Clinton administration's mandate). Obama said in 2004: "Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency." In 2003, Bush successfully called on Congress to reauthorize and expand on welfare reform efforts, "to make welfare even more focused on the well being of children and supportive of families."

So, although he has been ranked as the most liberal senator by the National Journal and obviously hasn't voted with Bush as often as Sen. McCain has -- based on his voting "record" -- Obama's "rhetoric" still sounds a lot like, well, Bush. McCain might want to take that into account the next time Obama talks about another Bush term.

The opinions expressed in this story are solely those of the writer.

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