During his eight years in the Illinois state senate, Barack Obama voted "present"
130 times. That's an astounding 12-13 times a year in which he said, in effect,
"I'm here, but I'm not going to take a stand on this issue."
Given that record of bold leadership, I'm surprised Sen. Obama acted as he did on
the legislation Congress passed July 9 to renew the Foreign Intelligence
Surveillance Act. Sen. Obama had pledged to filibuster FISA if it contained a
provision to provide retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies which
cooperated with the government, and then reneged on that promise.
I'm surprised Sen. Obama wasn't somewhere else giving a speech on hope and change on
the day of the FISA vote. If there were ever a vote for him to duck, it was this
one. The FISA flip flop is all the more perplexing in view of the er, ah, "pivots"
Sen. Obama has made recently on campaign finance, NAFTA, gun control, the death
penalty, and abortion, and the Mother-of-all-pivots he is about to make on the Iraq
war. His moonbat base is already upset enough with him. Why give them additional
reason for concern?
When Sen. Obama returns from his visit to Iraq, he is all but certain to backtrack
on the pledge he made to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of
assuming office. He's already said he'll "refine" his policy after input from the
commanders on the ground, and, thanks to Martha Raddatz of ABC News, we've got a
good idea of what that input will be.
"Several commanders who looked at the Obama plan told ABC News, on background, that
there was 'no way' it could work logistically," Ms. Raddatz said in a broadcast July
11. U.S. troops would have to leave most of their equipment behind, which would be
very, very stupid.
So Sen. Obama will alter his position on withdrawal from Iraq because it is
untenable. The 16 month figure was something he plucked from his buttocks at a time
when it appeared the war was being lost. Now the war is all but won, and the only
way it could be lost is by a precipitous U.S. withdrawal.
It would be especially foolish to stick to the 16-month timetable because the Iraqi
government is likely to insist upon a more realistic timetable of 3-5 years as a
condition for ratification of a status of forces agreement to replace the UN mandate
which runs out at the end of the year. The Bush administration has in the past
opposed a timetable, but circumstances have changed. With the war all but won, it
is perfectly reasonable for the Iraqis to want to know when foreign troops will be
leaving their country. And it would be wildly unreasonable for Sen. Obama to insist
on a timetable the U.S. military and the Iraqi government consider imprudent just to
get U.S. troops out a few months faster.
So Sen. Obama will bow to reality, which will annoy those of his supporters who were
hoping we would lose in Iraq, but which is essential if he wishes to convince the
broad American middle he's sensible enough to be president. It's likely that when
he returns, his position on Iraq will be difficult to distinguish from that of Sen.
When he bows to reality, Sen. Obama will be accused of flip flopping. But
politicians should change their position when circumstances change as radically as
they have in Iraq. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds," Ralph
Waldo Emerson said.
So in this instance the grief Sen. Obama will get will be undeserved, but thanks
to the number and magnitude of his earlier "pivots" he's likely to get plenty of
Sen. Obama's "pivots" have brought him closer to the center politically, but at the
cost of the image he's been cultivating as a different kind of politician. "Change
we can believe in" has been replaced, said columnist Tony Blankley, by "change we
can't keep up with."
The earlier pivots put Sen. Obama between a rock and a hard place on what figures to
be the most important issue of the fall. Nervous Democrats in the Senate have noted
public support for drilling for oil in the U.S. has reached landslide proportions,
and are softening their opposition to it.
"Obama is shaping up to be the only Democrat without a chair when the music stops,"
said Jaime Sneider of the Weekly Standard. "His latest ad claims offshore drilling
won't be effective, putting him in a terrible bind. If he sticks to his guns, he's
at odds with his party and the vast majority of Americans. If he flip flops, there
is yet another reason for his countrymen to conclude he's nothing but a milquetoast
flip-flopper whose words mean nothing."