As President Obama comes under fire for his national security policies — defined, most recently, by the discovery that his administration has been secretly collecting millions of Americans' phone records and monitoring their online activity — one clarion voice has emerged as the commander-in-chief's greatest champion and defender: Ari Fleischer.
In recent weeks, the former George W. Bush press secretary has routinely used his perch as a Republican pundit to hail what he views as Obama's continuation of his predecessor's policies — a somewhat mischievous compliment that manages to praise his old boss and troll the political left at the same time.
"For a future president, whoever takes the reins in 2017 will be able to look back over 16 years of Bush and Obama actions — Guantanamo, drone strikes, wiretaps, military commissions — that all served as the centerpieces of how to keep America safe in an age of terror," Fleischer told BuzzFeed Thursday, as the Obama administration faced a barrage of attacks over the NSA's snooping.
Fleischer gave a similar quote to Politico, which made a headline out of his favorite trolling soundbite, "Bush's 4th term." He also took to Twitter to defend Obama, with a series of Tweets that drew angry, scornful responses from liberals.
Last month, Fleischer was more than happy to jump to Obama's defense over revelations that his Justice Department was spying on reporters in an attempt to chase down leakers. In the lead quote on an A1 USA Today story, Fleischer said, "Frankly, I think the White House has given the right answers and best answers... The problem is the answers that [White House Press Secretary] Jay [Carney] is giving are ones that the White House press corps doesn't want to hear."
Fleischer speculated that his praise wasn't especially welcome around the West Wing these days.
"I would imagine that the liberal left would see my defending the president as reason that he is doing things wrong, but I'm going to be consistent," he told BuzzFeed. "I think he's been great on these issues."
Asked what he thought of Fleischer's compliments, former Obama aide and Democratic strategist Bill Burton was less than gracious.
"I'm not going to address his motivations but if he thinks the president is keeping our country safe, great," he said, before adding, "No, I don't accept that the president's national security policies are an extension of President Bush's.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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