The Adult Presidency

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One way that Republicans (and some liberals) have worked to diminish Obama's victory, is by asserting that Obama is, himself, a conservative. We heard this in the talk about Obama's cabinet coming from the "right wing of the Democratic Party." For conservatives, the upshot of "no difference between Bush and Obama" is obvious. It allows them to argue that conservative principles didn't actually lose, and Obama doesn't really represent change. Here it is on full and brazen display courtesy of John Ashcroft, discussing the case of Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri:

John Ashcroft, who was Attorney General when Marri was designated an enemy combatant, makes no such apologies. Interviewed just before the Inauguration, he defended what he described as a "sound decision" to "maximize the national interest," and predicted that, in the end, President Obama's approach to handling terror suspects would closely mirror his own: "How will he be different? The main difference is going to be that he spells his name 'O-b-a-m-a,' not 'B-u-s-h.'"

That was cute. But here are the facts:

The Justice Department, in an abrupt change in policy from the Bush administration, is preparing to bring terrorism-related charges against a man identified as an operative of Al Qaeda who has been held in a military brig for more than five years, government officials said Thursday.

The charges would move the case of the only enemy combatant to be held on American soil, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, into a civilian criminal court. The Bush administration had argued that he could be held indefinitely without being charged.

Yeah. Obama is Bush. Nothing's changed. Nothing at all.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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