A de­bate Obama can­not win

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

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.

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