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Blank Like Me

Last Friday, Charles Krauthammer wrote a column that pre-empted a lot of a piece that I was kicking around -- Senator Barack Obama's recent sudden reversals on many positions he'd been holding for some time. Krauthammer outlines Obama's change of heart on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the granting legal immunity to the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the federal government on wiretaps.

Krauthammer also touches on Obama's change of heart on public financing for the general election, but I want to look at it a bit more closely.

Obama's rationalization for forgoing $85 million from the federal government contained several elements. The first one -- that he needed to be able to counter the expenditures of 527 groups that will be out to sink his campaign -- I demolished yesterday. Right now, Obama can comfortably count on over 3/4 of all 527 moneys to be spent in his support. If a 3-1 ratio isn't good enough for those groups, then do we really WANT them to prevail and gain control of the federal budget? Wouldn't you rather entrust our money to those who operated with one-third of the money of their opponents, and still won?

His original pledge, to be fair, was not to take public money and eschew private donations. He merely said that he would "meet with" and "aggressively pursue" an agreement with the eventual Republican nominee that both of them would do so for the general election.

Well, that ain't gonna happen. Obama has decided that since John McCain, the Republican presumptive nominee, pulled a "Howard Dean" and started to pursue public financing during the Republican primary, then backed out, then that's good enough. Obama's pledge is off the table. (I'm tempted to say "under the bus," but Obama's really made that phrase seriously hackneyed.)

And then there's the Supreme Court's ruling on the DC gun ban. Obama has consistently been a champion of "gun control" -- that's a polite way of opposing the private ownership of guns. In Illinois, he backed a measure that would have banned gun shops from within five miles of schools, churches, and parks -- a de facto ban of gun shops entirely. He served on the board of the Joyce Foundation -- one of the staunchest anti-gun groups around -- for eight years. And he agreed that the government ought to ban handguns entirely, as well as saying that he supported the DC gun ban.

Right up until the Supreme Court ruled that ban unconstitutional.

That's when he said he agreed with the Supreme Court's decision.

So we are left with the inescapable conclusion that he agrees with laws that violate the Constitution.

In each and every case, Obama's position has "evolved" to more closely align with my own beliefs (or, as I like to think, closer to reasonable and sane). So there's a part of me that welcomes these moves.

But there's a louder part of me that doesn't buy it.

There are several reasons why Obama is changing his positions.

The first theory is that Obama had a "come to Jesus" moment. That he suddenly realized "holy crap, I could really win this thing" and started thinking not as a candidate, but as a potential president. As such, he's realized that the positions that he espoused during the primaries were not workable, and indeed potentially disastrous for the nation. As such, he's maturing and growing and outlining how he will reconcile his (wrong-headed) idealism and the harsh realities of the world.

The second theory is that he "ran left" during the primaries to win the support of the hard left of his party, and now we're seeing the "real Obama" as he orients himself towards the general election.

The third theory is that we saw the "real Obama" during the primaries, and now he's "running right" to win over -- or at least placate -- enough of the general electorate to win the election.

The fourth theory is the most troubling -- and the one that I think is the most strongly supported by the evidence. It combines the worst of numbers two and three -- that he "ran left" during the primaries and is now "running right" for the general election. In both cases, he didn't reveal his own beliefs, but instead provided enough of a tabula rasa that people could project on to him their own beliefs and ideals that they could convince themselves that he was "their guy."

Carried to its logical conclusion, one is left to wonder if Barack Obama has any true core beliefs, any solid principles, any substantial opinions of his own apart from winning the presidency.

Looking at his record of accomplishments, I'd have to say that a pretty good case can be made for that one. At every crossroads of his career, he's taken the "safe" choice and affiliated himself with those who can best serve his political ambitions. He's never taken a bold stand on anything, never put himself at any kind of risk for any kind of principle.

I'd be delighted if the first theory was true. I could happily vote for a candidate who reconsiders his opinion as the facts change or evolve, and proudly proclaims that he is not so rigid, so locked into any particular ideology, that he can and will adapt to changing circumstances.

I could live with the second two theories. Lord knows that's pretty much how things have been in the past, to the point of "running to the left" or "running to the right" during the primaries, to shore up the base, then "running to the middle" to pick up enough support from the middle is an axiom of campaign wisdom. It'd be the same old same old, and we've survived it so far.

It's that last one that troubles me the most, though. It's the perfect formula for winning the presidency -- but a guaranteed disaster for governing. Once the election is won, who will show up to take the oath of office?

I'm reminded of the lyrics from "Where Do We Go From Here," the final song in "Once More With Feeling," the musical episode from Buffy The Vampire Slayer:

"Where do we go from here?
Where do we go from here?
The battle's won, and we kind of won,
So we sound our vict'ry cheer.
Where do we go from here?

Why is the path unclear,
When we know home is near.
Understand we'll go hand in hand,
But we'll walk alone in fear. (Tell me)
Tell me where do we go from here?

When does 'THE END' appear,
When do the trumpets cheer.
The curtain's close, on a kiss god knows,
We can tell the end is near...
Where do we go from here?

Where do we go from here?"


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Comments (14)

Obama is Chance, the garden... (Below threshold)
Wethal:

Obama is Chance, the gardener and lead character in Peter Sellers' "Being There." Everything to everyone, yet standing for nothing.

If he wins the presidency t... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

If he wins the presidency the easiest part for him will be taking his place in history as the first black president of the United States. That takes care of inauguration day. After that the real work begins. I am not sure if this question has ever been asked of him, but if I was sitting on a debate panel I would ask Mr. Obama to name one item, such as a social program or law for example, for which he feels he holds the main responsibility of formulating or implementing. For all this talk about the future from him, he could be talking about heaven for all I care. And the way liberals generally eschew religion I find it puzzling that they give this man iconic status without him really doing anything of which I am aware that would warrant all this swooning.

For the record, Obama's pos... (Below threshold)

For the record, Obama's position on gun rights is not a flip-flop, which means that a candidate who used to hold belief A, now holds belief B, contrary to A.

Obama is simply lying when he says he now supports the individual right to bear arms. His position on this matter has not changed one iota.

Obama believes in "Change".... (Below threshold)

Obama believes in "Change". And given the political situation at any given moment, that's what he'll do if he has to!

Jay, here is Obama's MO.</p... (Below threshold)
drjohn:

Jay, here is Obama's MO.

It happened in the FISA, it happened in Kyl-Lieberman, it happens all the time.

Obama waits for the die to be cast, and then takes a noble position- a position that has a quixotic angle, completely against the tide and without a hope.

It looks good and he never has to accomplish anything, and he has accomplished nothing.

But this is Obama. He never made known his position on Kyl-Lieberman and when Clinton voted for it, he blasted her in his self-righteousness.

He said he'd vote for the FIAS deal after claiming to be against it, and now is going to work to remove the immunity clause, knowing full well it ain't gonna happen.

Just like PT Barnum, Obama finds the front of the parade- after all the hard work setting up the parade has been done.

And some time between April and June he discovered that the public financing system was broken?

He has no core. He truly is an empty suit. There is no one safe from the bottom of the bus.

Anyone who believes that Ob... (Below threshold)
Clay:

Anyone who believes that Obama agreed with the Supreme Court's decision on the second amendment hasn't thought about it...or doesn't want to think about it.

If he is elected, the Obama of today will become the old Obama in the immediate moments following the election. I like the PT Barnum analogy. There is, in fact, "a sucker born every minute."

Bonus points for the Buffy ... (Below threshold)

Bonus points for the Buffy quote, but remember that (in "I've Got a Theory") Giles had it right off, but talked himself out of it. ("I've got a theory: it could be demons. A dancing demon? No, something isn't right there.") I think that theory 4 is the most likely valid, not that that will stop his supporters from rationalizing it away.

I learned yesterday there's... (Below threshold)
epador:

I learned yesterday there's a spray paint that can turn a blank surface into an erasable black or green board.

Somehow this seems relevant.

It's real easy to figure ou... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

It's real easy to figure out. What is his past track record? Who did he hang out with (feel most comfortable with)?

He's an empty fucking Chicago pol. He'll say or do anything to please the crowd he's in front of.
He'd throw his own wife under the bus if necessary.

What to find out who the real Obama is? Elect him in November.....but you probably won't like the results.

but instead provided eno... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

but instead provided enough of a tabula rasa that people could project on to him their own beliefs and ideals that they could convince themselves that he was "their guy."

I've noted before that in the 2004 Presidential Election primary 'the unnamed Democrat' fared better against Bush than any of the named Democrats. You could almost summarize Obama's approach as the 'Unnamed Democrat Strategy'.

I think the above quote is precisely Obama's strategy. If you're sufficiently vague about what you believe in (e.g. 'change') and can present it in a charismatic manner, people will project their beliefs into the gaps because they like the presentation... thereby deluding themselves into believing you said what they wanted to hear. Obama's done a great job of this. The question is the electorate intelligent enough to see through it. I haven't seen any indication of that so far...

I heard this song this morn... (Below threshold)

I heard this song this morning and thought it would be apropos for Obama's campaign: "Pretty Vacant" by The Sex Pistols*:

There's no point in asking us you'll get no reply
Oh just remember a don't decide
I got no reason its all too much
You'll always find us
Out to lunch !

Oh were so pretty, oh so pretty, vacant
But now and we don't care

Don't ask us to attend cos we're not all there
Oh don't pretend cos I don't care
I don't believe illusions cos too much is real
So stop your cheap comment
Cos we know what we feel

We're pretty pretty vacant
We're pretty pretty vay-cunt
And we don't care

*And yeah, I do rock pretty hard for a Republican. ;-)

B. Hussein Obama is an EMPT... (Below threshold)
Knightbrigade:

B. Hussein Obama is an EMPTY SUIT.
BUT...If given the position of power and a situation of having to act, he would take a liberal lefty approach every chance he could.

Obama: the integrity of the... (Below threshold)
John S:

Obama: the integrity of the Clintons combined with the competence of Carter. If America elects him, America deserves him. And I'm guessing they will.

So now we can put tilting a... (Below threshold)
RScott:

So now we can put tilting at windmills on our resume? Would that go over or under the Ivy league stuff?




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