Almost everyone is talking about Barack Obama's
flip-flops, as the Senate's most liberal member steadily moves to the
political center and disowns firebrands like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and
Father Michael Pfleger.
But less noticed is that Mr. Obama is not just deflating John
McCain's efforts to hold him to his long liberal record, but also
embracing much of the present agenda of an unpopular President Bush on a wide variety of fronts.
Take social issues. Mr. Obama is now a gun-rights advocate. Like Mr.
Bush, he applauded the Supreme Court's overturning of a Washington,
D.C., ordinance banning possession of handguns. The senator, also like
Mr. Bush, supports the death penalty. He recently objected to the
court's rejection of a state law that allowed for the execution of
And though Mr. Obama is still pro-choice, he now, like the
president, thinks "mental distress" should not justify late-term
abortion. In addition, the new Obama would like to continue - and even
expand - Mr. Bush's controversial faith-based initiative program of
involving churches in government anti-poverty programs.
In fact, Mr. Obama is sounding a lot these days like those Red
State, small-town conservatives he once caricatured in his infamous
comment about Pennsylvanians who "cling" to such hot-button, but
extraneous, social causes.
Consider also the campaign trail. Like a Republican in good standing
- but unlike the maverick John McCain - Mr. Obama has, by his sudden
forgoing of public funds, rejected the idea of campaign-finance reform.
In fact, he is the largest raiser of private cash in American
political history, and seems to have dropped opposition to accepting
pernicious "special interest money." Like a Republican, he raises the
most among the nation's wealthiest on Wall Street.
During the primaries, Mr. Obama seemed to advocate dismantling the
North American Free Trade Agreement. But now he has little desire to
overturn the present Bush trade policies.
On foreign policy and the war against terror, Mr. Obama once leaned
left in his primary battles against Hillary Clinton. But his latest
mutations move him again closer to George W. Bush. For all his prior
talk of the loss of civil liberties, a President Obama, like a
President Bush, would give telecommunication companies exemption from
lawsuits over tapping private phone calls at government request.
Mr. Obama wants to continue Mr. Bush's successful multilateral
efforts to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, and now praises the
Bush-inspired six-party talks with North Korea that led to the apparent
dismantling of Pyongyang's nuclear program. Like Mr. Bush, he advocated
expanding the military after the Clinton-era troop cuts. Mr. Obama once
advocated lifting the embargo against Cuba - but no longer. Like Mr.
Bush, he sees wisdom in leaving it be.
There also is suddenly not much difference when it comes to the
Middle East. Palestinian supporters were dismayed to hear Mr. Obama
promise that Jerusalem must be Israel's eternal and undivided capital.
Mr. Obama once criticized Bush for his unwillingness to meet directly
with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and exaggerating the danger
from Iran, which supposedly didn't "pose any serious threat." Lately
though, he agrees with the president that Iran now in fact is a "grave
Mr. Obama's most serious about-face is on Iraq. He once promised a
rigid and rapid timetable for withdrawing our troops. But given the
radical success of Gen. David Petraeus' surge and change in tactics,
Mr. Obama is now calling for withdrawals to be based on the conditions
on the ground in Iraq. How different is this plan from the present
administration's policy of incrementally sending home brigades as Gen.
Petraeus hands off security responsibilities to Iraqis in additional
It makes political sense that Mr. Obama is moving to the center
since he knows a Northern liberal like himself has not won a
presidential election since 1960. So don't expect Mr. Obama's
metamorphosis to stop. Before this campaign is over, he may well flip
some more. Would anybody be surprised if he starts supporting some of
Mr. Bush's proposal for expanded domestic oil drilling or backtracks on
raising trillions in new payroll taxes?
In fact, replace George Bush's Texas twang, cowboy strut and
evangelical Bible thumping with Barack Obama's mellifluous "hope and
change" rhetoric, easy grace and left-wing Christianity and we may
discover a flashy new cover to an old book.
Finally, if, even as Mr. Obama trashes Mr. Bush, he seems to agree
with him on so many fronts, why don't conservatives and Republicans
adopt Mr. Obama as a welcome convert?
Some may, but most I've talked with don't think Mr. Obama is sincere
and feel he will flip back to being left wing if elected. Or they think
Mr. Obama is changing so fast and so radically that it's hard to
believe he really knows who he is - or would be as president.