Trying to deflect criticism that he is sounding like a clone of the unpopular President Bush, John McCain is equating Barack Obama’s policies with those of President Jimmy Carter. Comparisons across generations are rarely on target. To solidify Republican support, McCain has positioned himself as Bush’s heir on taxes and Iraq. The Iraq war is unpopular, and tax cuts are a guilty pleasure for rich Americans: many like the smaller tax bills, even if they know the government will have to make up the revenue eventually.

The Vietnam War had ended by the time Carter took office in 1977, and he faced a budget deficit that’s puny by today’s standard. Obama, by striving to end US involvement in Iraq and reverse some of the Bush tax cuts, is trying to deal with the problems of 2008, not harkening to the past. Obama’s policies are better matched with those of a president closer to our own day. When Bill Clinton took office in 1993, he didn’t have to contend with a major war but did face an enormous budget deficit much like today’s. Congress raised taxes in 1993, and Clinton’s presidency is now recalled as a time of peace and prosperity. Those twin objectives guide Obama’s candidacy.

Americans needn’t look to the 1960s for failed policies; they are obvious in the Bush presidency, and they need to be reversed, not emulated. — The Boston Globe