January 20, 2009 / 9:33 PM / in 10 years

SCENARIOS: Obama speech heralds break with Bush era

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama, who won the White House on a promise of change after eight years of George W. Bush, signaled Tuesday a clean break from some of his unpopular predecessor’s policies at home and abroad.

Here are some of the breaks with the Bush era that Obama sketched out in his inauguration speech:


Inheriting two wars and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Obama made clear to Americans that they would have to make sacrifices to make things better — something Bush rarely asked for.

In fact, Bush urged people to keep up their normal business and “enjoy life” not long after the September 11 attacks of 2001, and he was also reluctant to ask Americans to drive less to conserve gas when prices at the pump were at record prices.

Obama emphasized that time and again Americans had “struggled and sacrificed” for a better life.

Echoing John F. Kennedy’s “ask not what your country can do for you” admonition, Obama spoke of a “new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world.” But he did not specify how Americans should pitch in.


Obama indicated he would move sharply away from Bush’s more controversial national security policies that have drawn heavy criticism at home and tarnished America’s image overseas.

“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals,” he said, adding that the United States is “ready to lead once more.”

Obama has vowed to shut down the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo and bar harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects such as “waterboarding” — or simulated drowning — that human rights groups say amounts to torture.

Bush was also criticized for authorizing warrantless domestic spying, an area in which Obama will set tight limits.


Obama sent a message to the world of his desire to restore America’s moral standing and stress multilateral diplomacy, in contrast to what many critics saw as Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy” epitomized by the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions,” he said. “They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.”


Obama did not specifically reiterate his pledge to withdraw all combat forces from Iraq within 16 months. But he did say: “We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq.”

Bush had long resisted talk about an Iraq pullout, but after security gains and under heavy pressure from the Iraqi government, he agreed late last year to a security deal that paves the way for a withdrawal by the end of 2011.


Obama took aim at Ronald Reagan’s “small government” legacy, a Republican doctrine Bush pushed for much of his tenure but was forced to abandon when aides urged massive government intervention to prevent financial collapse.

Obama is planning a huge economic stimulus program, including large public works projects.

“What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them,” he said. “The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works.”


Obama repeated campaign promises to reform the U.S. health care system and take politics out of science and environment policy, areas where Bush received low marks from experts.

“We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost,” Obama said. “We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.”

Obama has promised a more active U.S. role in the fight against global warming than the Bush administration, which resisted nationwide caps on greenhouse gas emissions. He is also expected to quickly reverse Bush’s executive order limiting embryonic stem cell research.

Writing by Matt Spetalnick, editing by Anthony Boadle

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