Friday, July 4, 2008

Obama's dance a refrain

Barack Obama's cynical dance to portray himself as a moderate is nothing new for the man with the most liberal voting record in the U.S. Senate.

In his book, "Obama: From Promise to Power," Chicago Tribune reporter David Mendell titled one of his chapters, "Dash to the Center," referring to his 2004 election to the Senate.

Once the party nomination was in hand, Obama was gingerly stepping toward the center—Bill Clinton famously called it the "vital center"—in an effort to court independent and swing voters in the fall general election. When I posed this shift-toward-the-middle scenario to Obama, he insisted that he would remain true to his core beliefs. "I think you will see consistency in my message from the primary through the general election," he told me. "I don't think you are going to see me tacking toward the center, because I never feel like I left what I consider to be the mainstream of American thinking and mainstream of Illinois views." However, when I wrote a story for the Chicago Tribune in late April 2004 that flatly stated that Obama was moderating his message and dashing toward the center, I heard nothing from him or his campaign disputing this assertion. My article delved into the unattractive political motivations behind this move, but in truth, the story most likely did more to alleviate concerns about moderates that Obama might be a liberal firebrand than it did to anger true believers on the left.

This is the oldest dance in politics—in other words, "the old politics." He's mocking the public with wholesale reversals of policies he stated just a few months earlier—not in the name of "nuance" or "new facts" but political positioning.

And he's doing it on an issue as important as Iraq, which obliterates any lingering belief that he stands for anything other than his own election.

Old-time cynicism lurks behind his fresh new face.

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