From the start, my take on Obama has been that he’s a talented and charismatic politician who some day could become an important senator.
For the most part I like him. I’ll be voting for the other guy, but if Obama wins, it’s not like I’m going to flee the country. Regardless of who wins, there will be things I like and things I dislike about the next president. If it’s Obama, the fact that a black man with a foreign-sounding name can rise to become president will be a powerful symbol of cultural evolution and the enduring power of the American dream. And symbols are important.
On a policy basis, my major disagreement with Obama is Iraq, the issue that in my mind trumps all others. I’m not a big fan of Hillary Clinton (although I voted for her husband twice — three times if you count the 2000 race). But as long as she was in the race I favored her over Obama. There’s barely a nickel’s worth of difference between them on most issues, but she seemed slightly less eager to surrender in Iraq, and to her credit she voted in favor of overthrowing Saddam. I also thought that as a female president, she would feel a need to demonstrate toughness (cf. Meir, Golda and Thatcher, Margaret).
From a character standpoint, my biggest concern with Obama was the very thing that endeared him to many others — the idea that he was “not a politician,” or was “a new kind of politician.” I never believed that to be the case… but enough people believed it that I had to consider the possibility. The idea of a president who is not a politician is scary. It’s like the idea of a Supreme Court justice who’s not a lawyer. There’s no law against it, and it might even work out OK. But it makes no more sense to put a non-politician in the country’s top political job than it would to put a non-lawyer in the top legal job.
But it turns out Obama is a politician. After winning the Democratic nomination by appealing to the young, the idealists, the activists and the pacifists, he’s swerved right so fast that many of his supporters have whiplash.
The anguish may be coming from the left, but conservative Charles Krauthammer has the best synopsis I’ve seen of “Obama’s brazen reversals of position and abandonment of principles — on public financing of campaigns, on NAFTA, on telecom immunity for post-9/11 wiretaps, on unconditional talks with Ahmadinejad.”
Krauthammer also makes a prediction I agree with:
“Obama’s seasonally adjusted principles are beginning to pile up… What’s left? Iraq. The reversal is coming, and soon…. He will use his upcoming Iraq trip to acknowledge the remarkable improvements on the ground and to abandon his primary-season commitment to a fixed 16-month timetable for removal of all combat troops.”
I certainly hope so. There was a political logic to being the champion of the surrender option during the primaries and before, when the war had been going so badly for so long. But now the war is going so well that the media and the public have largely lost interest — and General Petraeus still has half a year to consolidate the gains before the next president takes office. It seems likely that a broad consensus of the public will recognize how tragic it would be to abandon those hard-won gains and leave the Iraqi people to the tender ministrations of al Qaeda on the one side and the Iranian terror masters on the other.
So I still prefer McCain as commander-in-chief, but I take comfort in the overwhelming evidence that Obama is a politician. Politicians know how to maneuver around unwise campaign promises, and how to avoid being held hostage by their political base.