A debate Obama cannot win
Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency is faltering mostly because he misrepresented himself to the American people. He promised new and authentic politics; unity and bipartisanship; and reform of Washington. He touted his impeccable judgement — as evidenced by his early opposition to the Iraq war and the surge. He thus set the terms of the election debate. Yet the very terms he established are the ones he cannot win with: His record simply does not correspond to his rhetoric.
Mr. Obama’s “new kind of politics” — which was based on telling the truth, being a principled politician and treating one’s opponents fairly — collapsed once he secured the nomination in June. He reversed course with dizzying speed on NAFTA, FISA, public financing of campaigns, whether the D.C. gun ban was constitutional, meeting with rogue leaders without preconditions and the unity of Jerusalem. He even qualified his Iraq policy by stating it would be “refined” according to “conditions on the ground.” Most recently, in light of the economic downturn, Mr. Obama stated he might reconsider implementing the tax increases in his economic plan.
Mr. Obama appeared authentic during the Democratic campaign as a liberal champion: In running to the left of Hillary Clinton, he was passionate, fiery and convincing. Yet since his mad dash to the center, he appears uncomfortable: He stammers and stutters in response to questions rather than speaking forthrightly. The polished, Ivy League-educated senator now uses “folksy” expressions. This downhome speaking manner is geared toward attracting white, blue collar voters — and is not in consonance with his impeccable oratory. He is now packaged and artificial.
Instead of being a genteel campaigner, Mr. Obama and his surrogates have spent days attacking Mr. McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, for her inexperience. He has been charged with leveling low blows and sexism. Highlighting Mrs. Palin’s inexperience is a foolish strategy for one whose level of experience is, at best, equivalent to hers.
Mr. Obama has also assaulted Mrs. Palin for not being a true reformer. Yet it is he who has a record of requesting $936 million in earmarks. Mr. Obama’s record reveals that he is part of the Washington problem, rather than its solution.
The Illinois senator no longer represents generational change and the future: He selected a vice president that is mired in the past. Sen. Joseph Biden is a Washington insider whose voting record is symmetrical to that of the nominee: liberal and partisan. Together, they fall far short of the “bipartisanship” that was pledged.
Instead of “The Dream Team” ObamaClinton ticket many Democrats hoped for, the Obama-Biden ticket appears to be the “The Snooze Team,” they dreaded.
Mr. Obama stated that voters need not be spooked by his thin foreign-policy resume, but should look to his judgment. These statements were cheered throughout the primaries when the Iraq war was going badly. But once the surge succeeded, Mr. Obama has been unable to convince Americans that his judgment is in fact sound.
For weeks, Mr. Obama refused to acknowledge the success of the surge. Now, he acknowledges it at last, but still does not admit that he was initially wrong in his opposition. Clearly, his judgment on foreign affairs is often overcome by prejudices or expediency. Again, he set the terms of the debate and then failed his own test.
Many voters and critics are still asking: Who is Mr. Obama? He has told us who he is through his record and deeds: a liberal politician who will abandon all his principles at the drop of a hat in order to be elected. This is not new or fresh: It is precisely the “failed policies of the past” that he brilliantly identified, but cannot surmount.