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What we’ve learned about Obama (and power)

Posted By Russ Roberts On May 4, 2011 @ 9:20 am In Politics | Comments Disabled

Go back to the campaign of 2008, McCain (remember him?) and Obama. Suppose in the middle of the campaign, someone returned from the future and told you that by 2011, the President of the United States will have kept Guantanamo Bay open, launched a war against Libya, and crossed covertly into an ally’s territory to assassinate Bin Laden. Who would you think that would be? McCain or Obama?

Couldn’t be Obama. The man who was repulsed by American exceptionalism, who pledged to close Guantanamo Bay, the man who said the way to deal with bad guys is to talk to them, not attack them.

What happened?

Three possibilities come to mind. The first is that politicians on the campaign trail lie and dissemble. They need to motivate their base, craft an image, and so on.

The second possibility comes from a CIA economist who told me in the middle of the 2008 campaign that when Obama becomes President, he’ll know what Bush knows (meaning horrific and frightening classified information) and he’ll do the same thing as Bush.

The third possibility is that when you get into power, you change. It’s fun to play video games with real lives. You can’t help yourself. It’s easy to convince yourself (given that classified information) that you have no choice.

I think it’s a mix of two and three. I think Obama the candidate really thought he would be different. President Obama is not so different.

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