Charles Krauthammer

"To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." -- Obama spokesman Bill Burton, Oct. 24, 2007

WASHINGTON -- That was then: Democratic primaries to be won, netroot lefties to be seduced. With all that (and Hillary Clinton) out of the way, Obama now says he'll vote in favor of the new FISA bill that gives the telecom companies blanket immunity for post-9/11 eavesdropping.

Back then, in the yesteryear of primary season, he thoroughly trashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, pledging to force a renegotiation, take "the hammer" to Canada and Mexico, and threaten unilateral abrogation.

Today, the hammer is holstered. Obama calls his previous NAFTA rhetoric "overheated" and essentially endorses what one of his senior economic advisers privately told the Canadians: The anti-trade stuff was nothing more than populist posturing.

Nor is there much left of his primary season pledge to meet "without preconditions" with Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There will be "preparations," you see, which are being spun by his aides into the functional equivalent of preconditions.

Obama's long march to the center has begun.

And why not? What's the downside? He won't lose the left, or even mainstream Democrats. They won't stay home on Nov. 4. The anti-Bush, anti-Republican sentiment is simply too strong. Election Day is their day of revenge -- for the Florida recount, for Swift-boating, for all the injuries, real and imagined, dealt out by Republicans over the last eight years.

Normally, flip-flopping presidential candidates have to worry about the press. Not Obama. After all, this is a press corps that heard his grandiloquent Philadelphia speech -- designed to rationalize why "I can no more disown (Jeremiah Wright) than I can disown my white grandmother" -- then wiped away a tear and hailed him as the second coming of Abraham Lincoln. Three months later, with Wright disowned, grandma embraced and the great "race speech" now inoperative, not a word of reconsideration is heard from his media acolytes.

Worry about the press? His FISA flip-flop elicited a few grumbles from lefty bloggers, but hardly a murmur from the mainstream press. Remember his pledge to stick to public financing? Now flush with cash, he is the first general-election candidate since Watergate to opt out. Some goo-goo clean-government types chided him, but the mainstream editorialists who for years had been railing against private financing as hopelessly corrupt and corrupting, evinced only the mildest of disappointment.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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