Once upon a time in America

Yesterday on Bret Baier’s Special Report, his panel was discussing President Trump’s latest tweets about Russia. Charles Lane suggested that we reflect on how Trump has attacked Barack Obama over Russia and asserted his superior toughness towards Putin. “There was a time,” Lane said, when the very fact of such attacks and assertions by a president regarding his predecessor would widely have been considered outrageous.

Lane may be right. But note how carefully he chose his words. He said “there was a time,” not “until now.”

Lane had good reason to choose the words he did. As president, Obama did not hesitate to attack his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Indeed, Obama did so right out of the box, in his inaugural address. The Guardian reported at the time:

A passionate and determined Barack Obama used his inaugural address as the 44th president of the United States to deliver a stinging indictment of George Bush’s eight years in power. . . .

In a metaphor that suggested America had been somehow knocked to the floor under the Bush administration, he said that “starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America”.

Obama continued to attack Bush throughout his presidency. As Victor Davis Hanson noted:

When Obama ran for office, he routinely blamed the Bush administration for the Iraq War. After the surge (which he openly opposed) worked, Obama entered office to a quiet Iraq — and immediately took credit for the post-surge calm. Vice President Joe Biden called a constitutional Iraq “one of the great achievements of this administration.” Obama himself added that Iraq was “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.”

Yet when Obama pulled all U.S. peacekeepers out of Iraq before his 2012 reelection bid and the country blew up, he went back to blaming Iraq violence on Bush.

(Emphasis added)

And, of course, Obama loved to remind people of the economic mess he inherited from Bush. In March 2009, the Washington Post reported:

Obama had initially been content to leave partisan defense strategy to his proxies, but as the fiscal picture has continued to darken, he has appeared more willing to risk his image as a politician who is above petty partisanship to personally remind the public of Bush’s legacy.

He continued to remind the public of it for years.

To be sure, Obama was never as nasty about Bush as Trump has been at times about Obama. Trump’s approach to his predecessor has been a full step less civil than Obama’s was.

But there’s another factor to consider. It’s now clear that the Obama administration, almost certainly with Obama’s knowledge, used dirty (and probably illegal) tactics to undermine Trump. To paraphrase Charles Lane, there was a time when the tactics used by Team Obama against Donald Trump would widely have been considered outrageous. They still would be if used against a Democrat.

Consider the Obama DOJ’s submission supporting its application to engage in electronic surveillance against Carter Page. From all that appears, it relied on unverified information in a dossier put together by an operative paid by the Clinton campaign.

Moreover, the target, Page, had been cooperating with the FBI for several years. In fact, it seems that he had helped catch Russian spies.

There was no national security reason to spy on Page. He was not the Trump campaign guy who bragged in London about the campaign having Russian dirt on Hillary Clinton. That was George Papadopoulos who, as far as I know, never had his phone tapped.

The only logical reason I can think of for tapping Page’s lines was to obtain information about Trump and his campaign. And this was only the beginning of Team Obama’s effort to undermine and delegitimize Trump and his administration. Anyone who has been reading Power Line this year knows what followed in this regard,

To summarize, Trump succeeds a president who relentlessly blamed his predecessor for America’s woes and his own failures. He succeeds a president whose top officials — James Clapper, John Brennan, Susan Rice, Sally Yates, et al — worked assiduously to put Trump and his presidency behind the eight ball and, indeed, quite possibly in legal jeopardy.

Does this explain why Trump has become so nasty towards Obama? I don’t know. Trump’s a nasty guy. He doesn’t require much provocation.

But no intelligent comparison between the present situation and how things were once upon a time in America can ignore Obama’s churlish approach to Bush and his administration’s subversive approach to Trump.

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