How to Make an Obama Bush Scandal

It's natural that in times of national turmoil, political discourse looks back to the good old days. It's a little weirder when pundits look back to the bad old days, but it happens with remarkable frequency. No sooner has the Obama administration committed a misstep—real or imagined—than pundits leap to fit it onto the frame of a Bush-era faux pas. But are the parallels actually, you know, parallel? Usually not. Still, that hasn't prevented a lot of strained analogies from being tossed around like so many improperly ignored classified memos in the winds of a deadly hurricane-related act of terror. As a service to all our pundit friends, we present a guide to the current "X is Obama's Y" memes out there, why they do (or don't) work, and possible future uses for them:

The Literal

Example: The gulf oil spill is Obama's Hurricane Katrina; floods in Nashville are Obama's Katrina.
Explanation: Both, like Katrina, are disasters in the Southeastern United States.
Does it work?The oil spill doesn't work all that well as an analogy, as the Associated Press has explained: the administration moved quickly to counter the effects of the spill and was aggressive in promoting its work, and polls have found support for Obama's response. Nashville might have more resonance—the administration has been slow to respond—if more people were paying attention, which they're not.

Example: Elena Kagan is Obama's Harriet Miers.
Explanation:They're both Supreme Court nominees who have never been on the bench.
Does it work? And the similarities stop there. Miers spent most of her career in private practice in Texas, while Kagan has lengthy experience working in government and at two of the country's top law schools.

Example:A secret prison at Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base is, uh, Obama's Bagram.
Explanation:They're both secret prisons.
Does it work? Yep. It's not especially creative, but it's accurate.
Possible future uses: Any natural disaster and Katrina; offshore drilling and ANWR drilling.

The Vaguely Reminiscent

Example: The administration's crowing over March elections in Iraq is Obama's "Mission Accomplished."
Both are examples of premature celebration in Iraq.
Does it work?There's still a lot that could go wrong in Iraq, so the Obama administration is going out on a limb to claim it as a victory. On the other hand, it might go right, which is why the proponents might want to be careful about bold predictions: they sometimes go wrong. Just ask President Bush.

Example:Not stopping Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is Obama's "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S."
Intelligence failed to connect the dots on the "underpants bomber," and the Bush administration failed to act on an August 2001 report that Al Qaeda intended to attack the U.S.
Does it work? The buck stops with the president, but intelligence failure and executive failure to act on intelligence are two different things. Also, Abdulmutallab's attempt was smaller than 9/11, and it was unsuccessful.

Example: The Goldman Sachs scandal is Obama's Enron.
Explanation:Both companies have been accused of financial misdeeds.
Does it work?Sorry, no dice. Sure, Goldman employees gave to Obama, but major corporations tend to bet on winners, while the ties between Bush and Enron ran deeper than just campaign contributions.
Potential future uses:It's wide open. Feel free to connect any terror-related incident with the bin Laden memo or The Pet Goat, and any Iraq or Afghanistan news with "Mission Accomplished." Pundits who missed the chance to compare failed Obama cabinet nominees Tom Daschle and Bill Richardson to Harriet Miers or failed Bush Homeland Security nominee Bernard Kerik will have to hope they get a third chance.

The Symbolic

Example: The earthquake in Haiti is Obama's Hurricane Katrina.
Explanation: It's a natural disaster, but the symbolic tie is that, as with Katrina, the victims were disproportionately low-income and black.
Does it work? It's a dud. Unlike a hurricane, an earthquake can't be anticipated. More to the point, Haiti is a foreign country, not U.S. territory, and the U.S. responded more generously than any other country.

Example: The use/misuse of intelligence about Abdulmutallab is Obama's manipulation of Iraq intelligence.
Explanation: The case for war against Iraq was based on either faulty or misused intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons program. Sen. Kit Bond is skeptical of the Obama administration's claim that intelligence ties alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban and warns that, per our lessons from Iraq, we should not overinterpret intelligence.
Does it work? If true, it's surely improper—but probably won't lead to a multibillion-dollar war with thousands of American casualties.
Potential future uses:Again, there's plenty of leeway. Any case involving cronyism can match with Michael Brown, any financial case with Enron, and so on.

The Bad Pun

Example: Unemployment's going from 9 percent to 11 percent could be Obama's 9/11.
Explanation:They're the same numbers. Get it? Get it?
Does it work? No.
Potential future uses: Steer clear.

The Non Sequitur

Example: Health-care reform could be Obama's Iraq.
Explanation: Since the war in Iraq eventually brought down President Bush's approval ratings, and health-care reform battered President Obama's ratings, they're similar—apparently?
Does it work?Karl Rove seems pretty skeptical in the transcript linked above. As he points out, the war was initially popular on both sides of the aisle, whereas health care was a party-line vote.
Potential future uses: The world is your rhetorical oyster. Birther suits are Obama's warrantless wiretap! Bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is Obama's Guantánamo Bay! Van Jones is Obama's torture memo!