Friday, July 4, 2008

Obama & The Definition Of "Inartful" (Updated)

(Updated with new picture from TNOY)

Krauthammer expresses his amazement at the chalkboard that is Obama. Several months ago, Obama was a tabula rasa - a blank slate awaiting definition. No longer. We now know much more about Obama, though it is not written on a permanent slate. Rather, it is written on a chalkboard that Obama is ever erasing and rewriting before our very eyes, sometimes "inartfully" so. Charles Krauthammer captures the reality perfectly in his column today and even the NYT is sputtering over it all.

This from Charles Krauthammer:

You'll notice Barack Obama is now wearing a flag pin. Again. During the primary campaign, he refused to, explaining that he'd worn one after Sept. 11 but then stopped because it "became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism." So why is he back to sporting pseudo-patriotism on his chest? Need you ask? The primaries are over. While seducing the hard-core MoveOn Democrats that delivered him the caucuses -- hence, the Democratic nomination -- Obama not only disdained the pin. He disparaged it. Now that he's running in a general election against John McCain, and in dire need of the gun-and-God-clinging working-class votes he could not win against Hillary Clinton, the pin is back. His country 'tis of thee.

In last week's column, I thought I had thoroughly chronicled Obama's brazen reversals of position and abandonment of principles -- on public financing of campaigns, on NAFTA, on telecom immunity for post-Sept. 11 wiretaps, on unconditional talks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- as he moved to the center for the general election campaign. I misjudged him. He was just getting started.

Last week, when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the District of Columbia's ban on handguns, Obama immediately declared that he agreed with the decision. This is after his campaign explicitly told the Chicago Tribune last November that he believes the D.C. gun ban is constitutional.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton explains the inexplicable by calling the November -- i.e., the primary season -- statement "inartful." Which suggests a first entry in the Obamaworld dictionary -- "Inartful: clear and straightforward, lacking the artistry that allows subsequent self-refutation and denial."

Obama's seasonally adjusted principles are beginning to pile up: NAFTA, campaign finance reform, warrantless wiretaps, flag pins, gun control. What's left?

Iraq. The reversal is coming, and soon.

Two weeks ago, I predicted that by Election Day Obama will have erased all meaningful differences with McCain on withdrawal from Iraq. I underestimated Obama's cynicism. He will make the move much sooner. He will use his upcoming Iraq trip to finally acknowledge the remarkable improvements on the ground and to formally abandon his primary season commitment to a fixed 16-month timetable for removal of all combat troops.

The shift has already begun. Yesterday, he said that his "original position" on withdrawal has always been that "we've got to make sure that our troops are safe and that Iraq is stable." And that "when I go to Iraq . . . I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies."

He hasn't even gone to Iraq and the flip is almost complete. All that's left to say is that the 16-month time frame remains his goal but that he will, of course, take into account the situation on the ground and the recommendation of his generals in deciding whether the withdrawal is to occur later or even sooner.


And with that, the Obama of the primaries, the Obama with last year's most liberal voting record in the Senate, will have disappeared into the collective memory hole.

. . . As Obama assiduously obliterates all differences with McCain on national security and social issues, he remains rightly confident that Bush fatigue, the lousy economy and his own charisma -- he is easily the most dazzling political personality since John Kennedy -- will carry him to the White House.

Of course, once he gets there he will have to figure out what he really believes. The conventional liberal/populist stuff he campaigned on during the primaries? Or the reversals he is so artfully offering up now?

I have no idea. Do you? Does he?

Read the entire article. Even the NYT is sputtering over the incredible cynicism of Obama. They were choking on their cornflakes this morning over the rapidity at which Obama is tossing principles, positions, and his base under the bus:

Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things. He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics.

Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt.

Even his own chief money collector, Penny Pritzker, suggests that the magic of $20 donations from the Web was less a matter of principle than of scheduling. “We have not been able to have much of the senator’s time during the primaries, so we have had to rely more on the Internet,” she explained as she and her team busily scheduled more than a dozen big-ticket events over the next few weeks at which the target price for quality time with the candidate is more than $30,000 per person.

The new Barack Obama has abandoned his vow to filibuster an electronic wiretapping bill if it includes an immunity clause for telecommunications companies that amounts to a sanctioned cover-up of Mr. Bush’s unlawful eavesdropping after 9/11.

In January, when he was battling for Super Tuesday votes, Mr. Obama said that the 1978 law requiring warrants for wiretapping, and the special court it created, worked. “We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend,” he declared.

Now, he supports the immunity clause as part of what he calls a compromise but actually is a classic, cynical Washington deal that erodes the power of the special court, virtually eliminates “vigorous oversight” and allows more warrantless eavesdropping than ever.

The Barack Obama of the primary season used to brag that he would stand before interest groups and tell them tough truths. The new Mr. Obama tells evangelical Christians that he wants to expand President Bush’s policy of funneling public money for social spending to religious-based organizations — a policy that violates the separation of church and state and turns a government function into a charitable donation.

. . . On top of these perplexing shifts in position, we find ourselves disagreeing powerfully with Mr. Obama on two other issues: the death penalty and gun control.

Mr. Obama endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the District of Columbia’s gun-control law. We knew he ascribed to the anti-gun-control groups’ misreading of the Constitution as implying an individual right to bear arms. [Hardly.] But it was distressing to see him declare that the court provided a guide to “reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe.”

. . . We were equally distressed by Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s barring the death penalty for crimes that do not involve murder.

We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games. . . .

There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.

Read the entire article. (H/T Rhymes With Right). Change we "can believe in?" The only thing Obama seems to offer is change at 'light speed.' As to something to "believe in," that is a rather difficult task with Obama - a man who is rarely "inartful" in his pronouncements.

Unfortunately, I think the NYT need have little fear. The Obama of which the NYT complains is of no more substance than a wraith. The reality is that Obama is a true product of the left. Obama's history, his associations, and his comments during unguarded moments do give a window into Obama. That picture is at complete variance with the carefully constructed persona that is being presented to the public on any particular date, particularly since the end of the primaries.

I conclude with a joke a friend e-mailed me, which I retell here in the first person:

The Divine Comedy of Obama

In place of Dante, it was I traversing heaven, hell and points in between with Virgil as my spirit guide. At one point, as we moved through the seventh level of hell, we entered into the Great Hall of Politics. I was amazed to find that it was filled with clocks, each marked with the name of a politician and each displaying a different time. When I questioned the demonic curator of the hall about them, he said that each time a politician did a flip flop, the hands of the clock would spin about. I saw McCain's clock, and it showed a quarter to three. I saw Kerry's clock, it read midnight. But, look as I might, I could not find Obama's, so I asked Virgil if he could see it. Before he could respond, the demon curator piped up: "The boss has that one. He's using it for a fan."

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