Barack Obama, U.S. sen­a­tor

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Sup­port­ers, or at least be­liev­ers, in a Barack Obama pres­i­den­tial cam­paign have grouped around sin­gle theme: Mr. Obama will — how is much harder to ex­plain — tran­scend par­ti­san pol­i­tics in ways rem­i­nis­cent of an FDR, JFK or Ron­ald Rea­gan. For ar­gu­ment’s sake, we’ll as­sume the fiction that th­ese pres­i­dents were non-po­lar­iz­ing fig­ures. The myth of all is that each man­aged to ap­peal to most of the coun­try in a nonide­o­log­i­cal way, nei­ther lib­eral nor con­ser­va­tive, Repub­li­can nor Demo­crat.

With a rel­a­tively un­known can­di­date like Mr. Obama, the most skep­tics can do to ef­fec­tively counter this ar­gu­ment is look at his mea­ger leg­isla­tive record to find clues as to what kind of pres­i­dent he might make. We turn to his two years in the U.S. Se­nate:

The non­par­ti­san Na­tional Jour­nal gives Mr. Obama an 82.5 lib­eral rat­ing in the Se­nate. For com­par­i­son, Na­tional Jour­nal gives Sen. Hil­lary Clin­ton — the other most-talked about Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial wannabe — a 79.8 rat­ing.

For 2005, the lib­eral Amer­i­cans for Demo­cratic Ac­tion gave Mr. Obama a 100 per­cent rat­ing, as did the AFL-CIO. ADA’s con­ser­va­tive coun­ter­part, the Amer­i­can Con­ser­va­tive Union, gave him a 8 per­cent rat­ing.

The anti-tax Na­tional Tax­pay­ers Union gave Mr. Obama an F for his 2005 votes, which isn’t sur­pris­ing for a sen­a­tor who has voted with his party 97 per­cent of the time.

In 2005, Mr. Obama voted with the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union 83 per­cent of the time and 100 per­cent of the time the way the lib­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal group League of Con­ser­va­tion Vot­ers liked.

As with his Illi­nois state Se­nate days, the im­pres­sion one gets from Mr. Obama’s brief ten­ure as a U.S. sen­a­tor is that he is an un­abashed lib­eral. And one would be right. But Mr. Obama only rarely talks like a lib­eral and he hasn’t done much for the cause of lib­er­al­ism. Al- though a long­time critic of the Iraq war, Mr. Obama hasn’t been as vo­cal as, say, Rep. Jack Murtha. Al­though he voted against Supreme Court Jus­tice Samuel Al­ito, Mr. Obama hasn’t staked out much ter­ri­tory on ju­di­cial is­sues like abor­tion or ho­mo­sex­ual “mar­riage.” In fact, Mr. Obama hasn’t done much at all on any par­tic­u­lar is­sue aside from obe­di­ently fol­low his party. His self-dep­re­cat­ing ex­pla­na­tion is that he is a first-term sen­a­tor just learn­ing the ropes.

For now, Mr. Obama’s trick of vot­ing like a lib­eral and talk­ing like a mod­er­ate is work­ing. But if he truly en­vi­sions him­self in the mold of pres­i­dents his sup­port­ers so of­ten com­pare him to, even­tu­ally Mr. Obama will have to take a stand. Un­til then, he’s just an­other Demo­crat who’s more lib­eral than Hil­lary Clin­ton.

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