Jacob Heilbrunn

Barack Bush Obama

George F. Will scorned the notion the other day, propagated by Dinesh D'Souza and Newt Gingrich, that President Obama somehow has an anti-colonialist, "Kenyan" mentality. If only, Will observed. The truth is that he personifies the conventional views of an American academic, much like Woodrow Wilson, argued Will. 

Will's point was that many Republicans candidates, or at least potential ones, have gone off the rails. He observed that the only real contenders are Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and a few others. The danger for the GOP is that "the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons."

Of course Will is right. But is he also correct about Obama? Is Obama simply a repository of left-wing notions?

The administration's decision to endorse military trials at Guantanamo suggests that he is not. Instead, he is an opportunist and a realist. The opportunist side is his readiness to try and pose as the non-ideological president, the man above the fray. All presidents try to appear above party politics. But Obama is elevating it to a new art form. He fairly breathes reasonableness and a lack of ideological fervor. He broadcasts his eagerness to have everyone just get along. His latest stunt was to appear together with Jeb Bush at a Miami high school to talk about education. The visit has the left up in arms--at the very moment that teachers are being decertified in Wisconsin, the president is hanging out with an arch-conservative proponent of education reform.

Now comes the GITMO decision, which is likely to send many of Obama's supporters over the edge. The Wall Street Journal editorial page has it right when it declares, "Obama ratifies Bush." Indeed.  As 2012 looms, it's also the path that he's likely to stage out repeatedly. Like Bush, he's a big spender. Like Bush, he's continued wars abroad. And like Bush, he's continuing the trend toward an imperial president. Future historians may conclude that there was more continuity than change between Bush and Obama.